The Adverse Effects of Body Shaming

Although we can strive for health, judging others and ourselves based on food preferences and choices can be harmful. Food and fat shaming can actually be making us fatter and here is why.

The Adverse Effects of Body Shaming

Each body is created differently; from the way it processes ingested food all the way to its shape and composition. Health to one individual can be achieved and entirely different from someone else. Regardless, we all have our reasons to eat certain foods. In just a single day, over 200 decisions regarding food and drink choices are made. Although we can strive for health, judging others and ourselves based on food preferences and choices can be harmful. Food and fat shaming can actually be making us fatter and here is why.

Food and Fat Shaming

Like each and every one of us, foods are created differently. Unless certain diseases eliminate certain foods, they can all fit into a well-balanced diet. Categorizing foods into "bad," "unhealthy," or "fattening" is a part of food shaming, as foods with these labels often have poor connotations and are oftentimes avoided. In contrast, avoiding these sort of foods can lead to poor food relationships and negative body images. Chips and cookies can be consumed and it is important to not deny that body craving. Depriving your body of what is truly wants can contribute to a binge and overeating. Consistent binging of high calorie foods will lead to a positive energy balance, consuming more calories than your body can burn. Excess calories will be stored and contribute to weight gain.

Going Shameless

Although food and fat shaming has become quite popularized, there can be approaches taken to turn shameful to shameless. For one, try to be more mindful. Mindful eating is a nonjudgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations while eating. Being mindful helps strip away the guilt of indulging in a "bad," "unhealthy," or "fattening" food and encourages the incorporation of all foods in the diet. It focuses on food attention while understanding internal and external cues. Internal cues encompass hunger and satiety, desires to eat and feelings of fullness. External food drives can include the environment and social impacts. Current studies have shown those who participate in mindful eating have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and successful weight loss. A brief curriculum called Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL) promoted self-awareness in obese individuals. All participants lost weight without focusing attention on calories, but rather internal cues of hunger, taste, satiety, and fullness.

Another step to minimize and extinguish food shaming is by understanding portions. When it comes to any food, know the recommended intake or serving size. If that salty bag of chips is calling your name, by all means go for it. Any by go for it, not the entire bag. Start getting comfortable with nutrition labels. It is important to understand the calories identified is for the serving size not the bag's entirety. If you find 15 chips to be an estimated serving for 130 calories, try to implement mindful eating techniques. Eat slow, appreciate the texture and flavor, and listen to the internal body cues. Although calories should not be the primary concern, they can be a guide to not overeat.

Ultimately, the body will crave food based on wants and needs, whether it be a piece of fruit or a big bowl of chocolate ice cream. In both circumstances, the body should be allowed that particular food item. If the bowl of ice cream is compromised by a banana, that want or desire can ultimately lead to an ice cream binge. Binges can create weight gain and weight gain can lead to poor food associations and body dissatisfaction. With food so critical for body function, practice mindful eating and start to understand portions to create a friendly food relationship.

References: Dalen J SB, Shelly BM, Sloan AL, Leahigh, Begay D. Pilot Study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2010:5.

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