The word "shame" is heavy and add on the concept of "fat," the pairing becomes even heavier, even literally. With overweight and obesity on the rise, it is absolutely imperative to identify and modify negative behaviors regarding harsh terms, as doing so may reduce the risk of medically overweight and obese individuals to gain more weight. But what actually is bad and fat shaming, how may it effect health, and how can it be reduced?
What Is Fat Shaming?
Body and fat shaming involves hurtful criticism and harassment of overweight or obese people regarding weight or eating habits, ultimately internalizing feelings of shame within them. But why might an individual start fat shaming? Their motives stem from their own self insecurities or the foreseen motivation; as it is suggested fat shaming may spark enough guilt to stimulate overweight or obese individuals to lose weight. But bolstering in such a manner is parallel to bullying, and it has expanded to more places than just the schoolyard.
Unfortunately, fat shaming is witnessed in a plethora of settings. But despite the multiple avenues of speaking out and shaming individuals, people largely take behind their screens. The rise of social media surfaced virtual fat-shaming, generally without any sort of repercussions, especially when depersonalizing under another alias. Additionally, individuals tend to fixate on personal appearances and aim to live up to unrealistic expectations often portrayed in the media. Upsettingly with overweight, obesity, and media accounts all on the rise, body shaming effects further grow of concern.
Body Shaming Effects
Body shaming is destructive on both physical and mental health, specifically shown to provoke the following effects:
Running in the opposite direction of most fat shamer's motives, body shaming can actually cause more weight gain. Experts suggest individuals being shamed regarding their weight turn more to food following bouts of discrimination, also a proponent of emotional eating.
Though weight-related comorbidities are inevitably at high risk, researcher Jean Lamont from Bucknell University further expanded on body shaming (specifically in undergraduate women) and health. Lamont found high levels of personal feelings of body shame had an increase number of infections and additional illness symptoms including headaches and diarrhea.
Overweight and obese individuals may already suffer from depressive and anxious thoughts. Top on harmful words, those feelings can be exacerbated. Such negative feelings can in turn create the vicious cycle of emotional eating and weight gain, only to even further intensify depression.
First off, it is highly important to highlight the concern of overweight and obesity. One must treat it as a health alarm rather than a personal failure, as being overweight sparks concern of other chronic diseases or conditions. For one, there are numerous avenues that may have lead to weight gain, whether it be an eating disorder, environmental factors, or health conditions. No matter the etiology, the concept of weight across all genders, disciplines, and cultures need to be reconstructed and approached as a medical and health concern.
But when it truly comes down to it, people are not the weight they have, but the heartened feelings of confidence and self-worth. It is up to us to not devalue anyone based on their weight, but recognize and appreciate their personal attributes. So instead of preoccupation on external appearance, allow yours and their internal wealth to surface.
Reference: Lamont JM. Trait body shame predicts health outcomes in college women: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2015 Dec;38(6):998-1008. doi: 10.1007/s10865-015-9659-9. Epub 2015 Jul 23.