A fairly controversial topic in our times is the issue of body shaming. Or rather, if it should be considered an issue. With over one-third of adults in America considered to be obese according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it seems only logical to encourage people to lose weight and pursue a healthy lifestyle.
Many programs have been made to help those struggling with their weight, such as Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better and California’s Project Lean, though many feel that people lack motivation to improve on their health. So they started criticizing those who are overweight, or obese, in hopes that the negative “encouragement” would cause people to want to lose weight. Yet, multiple studies have shown, that instead of stimulating the individual to lose weight, the criticism causes him/her to gain weight.
According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, with over 150 obese adults, found that those that were exposed to criticism about their weight were three times more likely to have a metabolic syndrome.
“A common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health. We are finding that it has quite the opposite effect..they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress,” says Professor Pearl of the University of Pennsylvania.
Pearl isn’t the only one that has come to this conclusion. Dr. Puhl, deputy director of the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, says that body shaming “is very harmful to health.”
But there are exceptions, some do feel compelled to lose weight because of the shaming. Though the pressure to “get fit” causes many to use unhealthy methods to achieve their ideal body.
According to Central Community College, “50% of teen girls and 30% of teen boys use unhealthy weight control behavior.” These behaviors can include skipping meals, fasting, using laxatives, and throwing up. In fact, over 20 million women and men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder in their life (in the U.S. alone), according to the National Eating Disorder organization. These disorders ( anorexia, bulimia, and others) are seriously debilitating, have terrible symptoms, and in extreme cases cause death.
Despite all of this evidence, many still feel that body shaming is effective and perfectly harmless. Perhaps, in a few cases it does push some to improve their lifestyle, though, according to the studies made, the insults only make the situation worse. Which is only logical, considering the psychological state of the person heavily affects their physical health.
So, instead of sharply criticizing overweight or obese people, actually encourage them to eat healthier, and exercise. But the best thing that you can do is accept them as they are. Everyone deserves to be treated well and appreciated for who they are, no matter their size or shape.
Artwork: Shaharah Torres