Shaming – You’re Always Doing It Wrong

Dear people who shame fat people and fat bodies,

I’m going to assume that you are doing what you truly think is best for fat people.  Normally I can see where many different points of view are valid, but in this matter you are just wrong.  Shaming is never the way to go and here is why:

People don’t take care of things they hate and that includes their bodies.  When you encourage people to be ashamed of their bodies, you decrease the chances that they will believe that they are worthy of care.

Shaming may actually create the problems that it’s purported to solve:  Peter Muennig from Columbia found that the stress of stigma and shame were correlated with the same diseases with which obesity is correlated. So every time you make someone feel bad about themselves, you put their health at risk.

Muennig’s research also found that women who were concerned about their weight had more mental and physical illnesses than those who were fine with their size, regardless of their weight.  So telling a fat woman to be concerned about her weight is dangerous.

When doctors are told to shame fat people for their weight, it leads to fat people not going to the doctor, they miss out on preventative care, and they end up not getting treatment until an issue is very advanced (which gives them even less time to wade through doctors who ignore their actual health issues and just tell them to lose weight to get actual evidence-based healthcare.).

When we shame people for getting sick, then they are too embarrassed to get the treatment they need.

We will never know how much all of the shame and stigma affects fat people until we stop shaming and stigmatizing them.

Shame is just never, never the way to go. There is no proof that shame and stigma lead to thin bodies or good health outcomes.  There is plenty of research that shows that shame and stigma lead to negative health outcomes.  You can no longer justify your shaming behavior in any way other than an attempt at putting down others to try to feel better about yourself, or to try to feel superior.  So now you know.  And knowing is half that battle.

Acting on your knowledge is the other half. Knowing the negative effects of shame, the only responsible course is to stop body shaming immediately.

Project Update – VICTORY!

Our e-mail writing and Facebook bombing worked!  Citizen’s Medical Center has ended their policy of not hiring people with a BMI over 35.  Add this to our victories including getting NEDA to remove the STOP obesity Alliance from its list of partners, responding to The Biggest Loser’s marketing that people can’t be loved until they are thin with our own kick ass video, creating the Fit Fatty Forum Photo Gallery, creating the 353 member Rolls Not Trolls Community to spread Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size to the darkest corners of the internet, Marilyn Wann’s incredible STANDards project, and raising $21,000 and putting up 6 billboards and 10 bus shelter signs in Atlanta to show kids of all sizes that they are valued and supported, and the iVillage Diet Quitters slide show that is in production, the HAES/SA Activist Community is kicking some serious ass.

Join the Club, Support the Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 7:38 am  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I just wrote this complaint letter(my first ever) to my bank, and I thought you’d be proud of me: http://lifes-a-bach.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/complaining-about-rain-in-spain.html

  2. Thanks for all your hard work Ragen. Reading this has turned my day around. I woke up this morning to the raging voices in my head telling me I was worthless and useless. I am so tired of it – I really don’t have the strength to battle myself anymore – much less the world. Thank you for doing it for me! I will not hang my head in shame anymore and I will call the doctor to see if I can get my health back without losing weight. This is who I am..DEAL!

    XOXO – Alison

  3. Brava!! I love this and will share on my social media sites. It is befuddling to me that when I talk with people about the shaming anti-obesity billboards in Georgia people look at me with a blank stare. Like, “what is wrong with that?” I’m getting all stoked up about how demeaning and damaging it is for the children (and adults) who had to see those and be shamed and people just stand there wondering why I’m all riled up.

    Even people who don’t believe in shaming children – I don’t think they see it as shaming. The only thing I can figure is that we’ve all been so brainwashed by the medical establishment (or diet industry) to believe that fat is the worst thing ever and that we must do anything and everything to stop it even if it means being horribly mean to children.

    We need a lot more education that fat isn’t as bad as we’ve been led to believe it is. Thanks for doing the work you do!
    Becky Henry
    Hope Network, LLC

  4. Beautiful. I want to also add something interesting about our body’s chemistry. If you induce shame in a lab setting (have people remember a time they felt ashamed) the level of pro-inflammatory chemicals goes up in their bodies. It gets better. If you inject pro-inflammatory chemicals in lab rats, they act ashamed.

    Being in a state of inflammation is linked to the endocrine system functioning less efficiently.

    Oxytocin, a hormone released when we feel loved, is anti-inflammatory.

    So — chemistry tell us to help someone lose weight, LOVE them.

    LOVE is always the answer.

  5. Amen and amen. I’m bookmarking this one to send to EVERYONE who comes up with the shame response. Thank you!

  6. But how do we know that they’ll actually live up to their hiring policies? They could *say* they are willing to hire anyone–including with BMI over 35–but just happen to not hire anyone like that? But to prove that wrong you’d have to force them to hire fat people, which is also wrong. It’s like certain places being forced to hire minorities or the disabled, regardless of merit. That happens every single day and it’s also wrong. So it’s hard to say how to go about it the right way isn’t it? Still, it’s a victory!

    For some reason I’ve been getting Woman’s Day magazines for the past 6 months. They notified me this is my last issue–big whup–but there was something in it I thought you’d find interesting…

    You know these magazines; they’re totally obsessed with weight and being thin and “healthy”. But in this issue I surprisingly found an article titled “Love Your Body (your flaws too!) So what if you’re not a size 4? There’s beauty in every inch of you. Make peace with your looks and embrace your shape.” by Stacey Colino.

    It was an alright article. I don’t think as good as the things I read in blogs online like yours, but it’s a start.

    It’s just a little confusing–I was actually confused when I saw it in the middle of this magazine! Like it doesn’t belong there. And really, it doesn’t. Because….*goes to count the pages in the magazine*….for that one “love your body” article, there were about 25 ads, articles, and snippets all centered around beauty, calories, losing weight, etc…
    Now if they could move on from “love your body” to “love your body and LISTEN to your body” philosophy, I might be more impressed!

    • April – I’ve been getting Woman’s Day Magazine too for the last couple of months, and I know I didn’t subscribe to it – I don’t read any of those kinds of rags for precisely those reasons. I don’t want to read the diet articles followed by the recipes followed by the beauty tips followed by exercise tips (all with weight loss and making myself acceptable to the male gaze as the main point of their advice). The last issue I got went right into the recycle bin, I didn’t even bother to look at what articles were on the front of the magazine.

  7. After a while, one can start feeling like a parent trying to explain cause and effect to a toddler. To wit; if shame worked as a motivator to lose weight there wouldn’t be any fat people.
    -BJ


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