Friends & Family Pressuring You to Lose Weight? New Research Reveals How Their “Good Intentions” May Be Causing Your Weight Gain (Here’s How to Break The Cycle)

By Caroline Alcantar | 1 July 2019 124 views
what is fat shaming

“Fat Shaming” Isn’t A Way to Encourage Someone to Lose Weight… In Fact, It Does More Harm Than Good

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Body shaming doesn’t help anyone – it hurts. Its negative impacts extend from childhood through adult life.

Why, then, do we continue to abuse and belittle people who are overweight? 

Some say it’s to help motivate. But we now have countless evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, that says fat shaming does just the opposite. 

One UK study of nearly 3,000 adults shows how discrimination against overweight people – whether in the form of direct harassment or perceived disrespect or low opinion – directly correlates to weight gain.

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The study reports that 5 percent of participants said they had dealt with one or more of the above types of body shaming. Over the course of the four-year study, this group gained an average of 2 pounds. 

Meanwhile, those who did not feel they had been discriminated against actually lost weight – about 1.5 pounds on average. 

Another longitudinal youth-based study reports similar findings. At its start, 110 overweight or at-risk adolescents were asked about their experiences with weight-based teasing. They were then followed up on frequently over the course of 15 years.

The study found that, per year, those participants who reported a high amount of teasing had a 33% greater gain in their BMI, as well as a 91% greater gain in fat mass, than those who reported no teasing.

Both studies indicate just how body shaming hurts, and scientists suggest a few good reasons why.

Why Is Body Shaming So Harmful?

For one, working out is a public thing. Whether it’s going for a jog around the block, swimming at a community center, taking a yoga class, or lifting weights at the neighborhood gym, the most popular ways to lose weight take place in shared spaces.

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If you’re constantly judged and patronized for your body, you enter these spaces feeling embarrassed and self-conscious. 

This unnecessary emotional stress is not just harmful in the moment. It all adds up. And for many, it’s a deal-breaker. 

We can all understand this. We know how hard exercising on a regular basis is – without pointed harassment or unwanted stares thrown into the mix. It requires double motivation to go work out if, every time you do, you’re met with negative attention or judgment.

What’s more is when we are stressed, our body releases hormones – one of which is cortisol. Cortisol is known to increase appetite. As a result, extended stress can quickly spiral into overeating. 

Even worse – foods with high fat and sugar content tend to bring instant relief to short-term stress, which makes it that much harder to stick to a diet or avoid calorically dense foods.

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This cycle is vicious. As soon as the initial stress is eased with food, those who struggle with their weight are left feeling guilty or hopeless – and once again the subject of another’s harassment. 

So long as body shaming continues, so does this cycle.

Stop Body Shaming – For Good

Clearly there’s a correlation between weight bias and people’s motivation to lose weight. This means that body shaming serves no point and has no place in our society. It’s time people stop the negativity, and start accepting each other without judgment.

The variety of the human body is a beautiful thing. And while we’re often told weight is directly related to an individual’s health or happiness, this is not necessarily true. Many factors play a role in our well-being, and the equation is not so simple as thin is fit and healthy, and fat is not. 

The most important issue that needs fixing, then, is society’s conventional idea of beauty and health. It’s outdated and misleading, and painfully narrow. 

The vast majority of people will never fit into that itty bitty mold, and spending an entire lifetime struggling to do so only brings about self-loathing and feelings of helplessness.

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Instead, we need to change the definition of wellness to one that includes all body shapes and sizes. We need to support each other and ourselves along the way and turn our motivation to lifestyle choices that support emotional health, too.

Numbers on a scale don’t relate and shouldn’t be our focus. 

If you’ve struggled with body shaming, consider using body positive quotes as a source of support. There are many great voices out there that offer words of humor, wisdom, or shared perspective, and can give you a boost of confidence when haters get you down. 

Let’s do our best to break the stigma. Sure, there will always be loud mouths and meanies. But you can resist being a part of the problem and choose to respect all people you share space with.

Your respect may come in a smile, or by saying hello, or by simply letting others do their thing, without judgment or comment. And while how you choose to interact with others might depend on their body language, it should never depend on their body.

 

what is fat shaming

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I’m just as guilty of emotional eating as anyone else…

When I’m happy? I want a snack.

When I’m sad? I reach for the chips.

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