Several years ago, a friend of mine walked into the new Hollister's that had opened up near the kiosks where we worked. She was definitely not the typical Hollister customer, being in her late 20s, not exactly experimental in her fashion choices, and...well...without a doubt...obese. But, she wanted to check out the store, see the fashions, and sample some of the perfumes. She knew she wasn't likely to fit into anything they had, but if she could find something that didn't reveal too much of her stomach, she felt perhaps she might be able to find something similar in stores that carry clothing for people her size. She wasn't in the store 5 minutes when a clerk walked up to her and said, with a very snide attitude, that there was nothing in the store for her and she shouldn't waste her time. She left the store and never returned, though the manager did come out and offer an apology.
That's fat shaming, and a lot of people think that if they consistently tell people who are overweight/obese how fat they are, how it's shameful, and/or how they "ought" to be eating, they will create a situation in which the person will change their bodies and lose the weight. I experienced it when I was heavy. Now, shaming has been used in the past by some communities to help regulate members' behaviors; just think of Hester walking around with the scarlet letter. No one wants to be humiliated in front of others, right? So, isn't it reasonable to think that if we can keep people from some behaviors through shaming or the threat of being shamed, then shouldn't it work for other areas of life?
Well, while shaming may have some impact (though I sincerely question its usefulness in any area), new research out of the University College of London shows that fat shaming has NO VALUE when it comes to trying to get people to lose weight. In fact, when people experience fat shaming, they tend to lose less weight than those who do not experience fat shaming, sometimes even gaining weight. The authors believe that fat shaming makes people more likely to avoid physical activity and to turn to high calorie comfort foods, which (naturally) sabotages the efforts at trying to lose weight. Instead of shaming a person who is overweight/obese, The Telegraph (UK) recommends encouraging family and/or friends who need to lose weight to join you in your exercise routine, to recognize that it is a positive when an overweight individual is at the gym, and to praise your friend/family member who makes good food choices rather than criticizing poor choices.
Part of this does seem like a "No duh!" study. Frankly, I never was motivated to make good food choices or to exercise when someone reminded me of my weight in a nasty way. Well, in all honesty, when a CDE criticized my food choices and made me feel shamed for my (at that time) lack of diabetes control, I didn't go eat comfort food; I didn't eat at all. Regardless, I have never felt that shaming works when it comes to something as fundamental as food and activity, that it back fires more often than not. Yet, at the same time, most people will do nearly anything to avoid being shamed by others. So, what's the answer?
As PWDs, I'm sure most of us have experienced this phenomenon. What's your opinion about fat shaming?