Science Says Fat Shaming Backfires — So Can We Finally Stop It?

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Love Your Body: Science Says Fat Shaming Backfires, So Let's Stop

A study out of the United Kingdom tells most of us what we already know: Fat shaming isn't making it any easier to lose weight. The study asked nearly 3,000 adults whether or not they'd been discriminated against — harassed, disrespected, treated as if they weren't smart, subjected to poor service at restaurants and stores — because of their weight.

Five percent admitted to enduring these types of fat shaming — and over a four-year period, these adults gained an average of two pounds. Alternatively, adults who did not report that type of fat shaming lost an average of 1.5 pounds throughout that same four-year period.

Telling someone that they're fat — or treating them with less-than-polite behaviors — is never the right thing to do. Neither is 'fat shaming'. While actions are always stronger than words, when it comes to issues of physical healthy and safety, words slice just as deep.

When we fat shame, we don't solve the problem; we just create a bigger issue. According to the UK study, weight discrimination has been linked to behaviors that lead to weight gain, like comfort eating, which makes complete sense. When you feel fat, you feel instantly defeated — and all that drive you might have once felt to work out, to lose weight and to take control of your health and longevity floats away. In it's place, you reach for the things that you know —and the things that comfort you: Food.

And reaching for those comfort foods isn't just a quality of the obese. When we have a bad day, when we're tired, when we don't feel like going out, when we have a sucky meeting, when our friends ditch us, when our significant others leave us, when we’'e passed over for that promotion we were hoping for, when money is tight — we’re all guilty of turning toward the things that make us feel instantly better. More often than not, those instant pick-me-ups are food-related.

So what's the problem with fat shaming? You'd think that hearing from people just how negatively your physical weight is impacting your life, be it through disrespectful, degrading comments, harassment, insults or insulting attacks on our intellectual capacity, would be the swift kick in the pants that we'd need in order to change our lives around, right?


When you're overweight, unhappy and self-conscious about your image, those comments diminish all hope that you have. It makes you feel small and worthless. It's embarrassing and humiliating. And accepting the reality of your weight is something that's incredibly personal. It's not something that we share easily. So when you're teetering on a delicate balance, any negative comment holds the potential to throw you completely. And usually, it will.

So before you reach for hurtful words, think twice. Think about how those side-eyes, stares and degrading comments would feel if they were thrown in your face. Think about how it feels it wear the other shoe. Because hurdling these actions and feelings at people who aren’t asking for your opinion on their weight is just as dangerous.