Is 'Fat Shaming' The Answer To Solving An Obesity Crisis?

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Unless you've been living under a rock this week, you'll have noticed this has been the topic of conversation just about everywhere.

From JaackMaate on TwitterPiers Morgan (of course), the Loose Women panel all the way to James Corden responding to another talk show host in the USA. I think I have heard just about every debate and angle that this could possibly be spun, but the question that boils down to it, at the end of the day, is this.

Will fat shaming someone help them to lose weight?

Well, for a start, 'fat shaming' is defined as follows:

"The action or practice of humiliating someone judged to be fat or overweight by making mocking or critical comments about their size."

Lovely, right? Definitely something we'd all want to participate in, as grown adults.

Seeing people I previously respected agree with fat shaming set off a burning fury inside of me and I knew I would have to talk about it, so apologies for adding to the incredibly long list of people who have already discussed this, but here I am, putting my 2 cents in:

First of all, I think it is important to get to the bottom of why obesity is becoming such an issue.

It is no secret that the UK has a problem with weight control currently and as it stands, there's reportedly around 30% of all citizens who are either obese or overweight. Schools in England are also claiming that around 20% of children leaving primary schools are overweight. I would take the childhood survey with a pinch of salt though, as we all know someone who has been informed that their child is obese despite said child being fit and healthy with no weight issue whatsoever. 

If you take away all of the people who have underlying health issues causing them to gain weight, those who have mental illnesses and other determining factors that cause obesity, and you look at the folk who don't have issues but choose to be overweight, you're usually looking at culture being the contributing factor. If you take America, for example, the country with one of the largest obesity rates ever, it won't be a surprise to you that McDonald's serve up 'supersized' portions over there, as do most other fast food chains.

I live in a tiny coastal town in the UK, and looking at Just Eat, for example, we have over 50 takeaways that are open daily until early hours of the morning.

I have at least 10 takeaways in walking distance of my house. 

It is now easier than ever to order something quickly and remotely when you're tired, on your way home from work, upset, want something to grab or just don't want to bother with cooking. Treat night tends to be a weekly thing and supermarkets literally design their displays around getting people to buy tempting 'cheat' items as they're browsing for their weekly shop.

We also sadly live in a country where minimum wage is rock bottom, meaning most people are relying on the likes of Universal Credit to get by, or the food bank, feeding their families on cheaper alternatives that aren't always the healthier option.

If you ask me why there is an issue with obesity, i'd say it's that, not that people aren't being honest and telling their loved ones they need to go to the gym. It is all too easy to fall into a trap of over eating or eating the wrong things. I'm sure Piers Morgan has never had to feed his family on a universal credit income but lets be honest, does the man ever consider other people's perspectives to his own?

Now I will tell you about my own experience with fat shaming.

Since being around 8 years old (or at least that's as far back as I remember), I had comments about my weight repeatedly from friends, family members and pretty much anyone I ever had an argument with. It was the first insult I ever remember being thrown at me and properly hurting. As I moved into secondary school, the teasing got worse. Looking back I never got much bigger than a size 12 but being 5 foot 10 and hanging around with a bunch of tiny friends in comparison, I stuck out and became a target. I imagine my reaction to it also made it worse, because it was very difficult for me to ignore it and pretend it didn't hurt because it did, and I was a child - I believed every horrible word these nasty people said.

I over ate through boredom, and when I had something to fill my day I lost a lot more weight, and even though I was a perfectly reasonable size and was definitely not overweight, I was never happy with myself. The 'fat shaming' ruined every part of my self-image and even now when I see people looking at me I always wonder if they're thinking I look fat, because it becomes an obsession and creates somewhat of a paranoia when you hear it enough.

I let the comments get to me when I left college and developed an eating disorder, going the other way completely, and living off, well, essentially nothing. I wanted to be congratulated as much as I was bullied, and even when I was thin I never actually believed I was thin, hence why I carried on getting thinner, only now looking back do I realise how small I actually got.

Did fat shaming help me lose weight? In the end, yes. Did it destroy every part of my confidence, my happiness and my mental health, and will it stay with me forever? Also yes. 

It's worth adding that I have now put all of that weight back on and even more, so although it worked for a brief period, it didn't work forever. I sit quite firmly on the edge of the obese/overweight BMI bracket, as a 5 foot 10, 15 stone woman. The only difference is now I still hear all of the fat shaming comments I have received over my life in the back of my head and think "if they thought that then, what must they think now?" and my confidence has never been lower.

I also think it is very important to touch on the matter that everyone seems to be using as a counter argument too - it's okay to mention weight out of concern if it's a family member or a friend. Let's be honest. Is it? How would you feel if a family member sat you down right now and told you you were too fat, honestly? Does your family member/friend not own a single mirror, set of scales or ever see their own reflection? Do you think there's a high chance they actually don't already know they're overweight? Do they really need YOU to tell them? 

I can't ever imagine a situation where anyone ever feels like it is their place. Call me a snowflake, call me paranoid... but if you are not a certified GP you should keep your unwanted opinion to yourself.

It also begs the question of how you could deem someone to be 'fat' just by their BMI, which is the only reason we have these categories of weight to begin with. There are lots of people in the world in incredible shape with a BMI that labels them 'obese' due to the muscle weight they are carrying.

Fat shaming and the effect it can have was just brilliantly demonstrated in the documentary 'Odd One Out' where Jesy Nelson discussed the barrage of online abuse she received after she won the X Factor. She received so many hate comments about her weight, she removed herself from all social media platforms and attempted suicide. Again, none of this 'fat shaming' was ever from a point of concern, they said some truly horrific things to her that will stay with her for the rest of her life. Even now she's lost weight, she still thinks she's too big, which pairs almost exactly to my own experience above.

Fat shaming is disgusting. It is nasty and completely unnecessary, and will never be the answer to anything, except maybe to further heighten our already alarmingly high suicide rates. 

It worries me that there are so many public figures shouting about how we should just tell someone they're fat and it will fix everything - mainly for the sake of those teenagers struggling to control their weight who have to deal with these comments on a daily basis from classmate bullies who have now been given so much more ammunition.

My heart breaks for them, seriously.

As James Corden so brilliantly stated, if fat shaming worked, nobody would be overweight. If you can sleep at night knowing you've hurt someone so much they feel the need to change their whole diet and appearance for your sake, then you seriously need to take a long hard look at yourself instead.

I asked on my Facebook page for some of your opinions:

AJ Clark: "Fat shaming is never the answer. Fat shaming lowers self-esteem and lowers mood, leading to depression, anxiety and a hatred for ones body.You don't know what that person has been dealing with in their life, whether it's mental or physical health, public or private issues. There are a whole myriad of reasons someone is overweight and unless you know the individual circumstances surrounding said person opinions should be kept to yourself, even then it's all down to how well you know the person and how much they trust your opinion. Constructive criticism is okay, maybe, if the person trusts your honesty but fat shaming should never be allowed."
Clo Lauren: Absolutely not. No one has a right to comment on someone’s weight, on their health, yes but weight, no. 9/10 there is a reason for over-eating, binging or someone being overweight. I’m sure those who put weight on are aware they’re getting bigger but by no means is it ok to shame them for it.  
Tamara Louise Tanner: It truly depends like if I was getting to the point where it was overly bad for my health, and I was starting to get trouble then I'd be grateful for someone to point out that I'm getting larger and the health repercussions. However, if I was just a little bit overweight because I overindulge then I'd be royally upset that someone thought that it was acceptable to comment on MY body.

Make sure to let me know your thoughts and where you stand in the comments below. 

Follow me on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

1 comment

  1. There's not a single situation when fat shaming is okay. Whether it's someone you're really close with, or a person you just met, in public, at home or on social media – it's not okay.
    I've been through this as well. I have two younger sisters; and one of them is naturally skinny, has fast metabolism and won't gain weight even if she ate her own body weight in food. I, on the other hand, have struggled with binge eating and boredom eating in the past, which of course resulted in weight gain and fat shaming. I can say I'm quite lucky, because I was never bullied for it, but it messed up my self-confidence a lot.
    And I stand by the rule, that if it's not something a persson can fix in two minutes (like a lipstick stain or messy hair), you shouldn't comment on their looks. The only person who can comment on someone's weight is a doctor or a professional, who can advice what's healty and what's not. Otherwise, don't tell someone they're too fat, chubby and they should lose some weight; and vice versa, that someone should put on weight and eat more.



Fern Olivia © . Design by Berenica Designs.