How To Overcome The Negative Effects Of Fat & Body-Shaming

Photo: Getty
How To Overcome The Negative Effects Of Fat & Body-Shaming

Here's how you can cope with the social stigma associated with being overweight.

Research from the University of Hawaii indicates that negative attitudes toward women persist even after they have lost weight.

Researchers suggest that policies are needed to combat prejudice against the obese based on inaccurate assumptions. I do not know how such policies would work, since we have been talking about this issue for more than 50 years now without much progress.

But I do know something about the emotion of shame, which tortures many people who have difficulty controlling their weight. This is the challenge overweight people face everyday.

RELATED: How The Dangerous Lie Exposed By Nike's Plus Size Mannequin Keeps Fat People Stressed & Depressed

Shame is a powerful survival emotion that comes into play when we are defeated or excluded. People who face rejection, or stigma for any reason, usually find themselves experiencing shame or anger. Neither of these emotions help to make you more attractive. These emotions are designed to motivate your survival behavior. When shame is activated, you are faced with an emotional compulsion of trying to hide, expressing anger toward those you want to accept you, or taking the anger out on yourself. Some women feel compelled to starve themselves to skeletal proportions, without ever losing the sense that they are overweight.

The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and the stigma of social ostracism is both painful and dangerous. But, paying attention to the inner pain of shame does not help. It just compels you to hide, or be angry, without much you can do about it. So, it is important not to let yourself be defined by these painful feelings. But how the devil do you do that?

Here are 4 tips to how to overcome the social stigma and fat-shaming too often faced by people who are overweight.

1. Focus on your posture. 

Oddly enough, practicing acting beautiful can change your mind set, making small changes in your body.

The emotion of shame makes you slouch and look away. Practicing standing straight up with your head held high as you walk gracefully sends a signal to yourself and the people who see you that you have nothing to be ashamed of. Changing your posture works subtly to change your inner feelings, and the responses of those around you.

2. Beautiful smile. 

The emotion of anger makes you glare at others, and gives you a sharp tongue. There are many ways to smile. But the most lovely smiles come naturally, when you are thinking about those you love or experiences you love. When you can focus on joy, compassion, love, and beauty, rather than fear, shame, and pain, your smile will lift your own spirits and the hearts of those around you.

RELATED: 10 Shameful Myths About Fat Women & Obesity You've Probably Always Believed Were True

3. Beautiful gaze. 

Shame makes you avoid eye contact. Anger makes you stare at others in hostility. But when you walk down the street realizing that most people are struggling with the same pain as you, and you silently wish them well as you look them in the eye, your generosity of spirit and big heartedness will lift you up and heal your own blues.

4. Being a beautiful role model.

I am not saying the culture will change as a result of these steps, but while we are waiting for those government policies to take shape, there is something we can learn from the women who have demonstrated the ability to transcend the stereotypes of society. Queen Latifa, for example, acts as if she would only feel sorry for you if you did not think she was beautiful. I have met several women over 300 pounds who never had trouble getting a date. They know about their own beauty, and invite others to discover it. It is not easy to go against your culture and your own survival emotions, but it is possible, and it is effective.

RELATED: A Woman Fat-Shamed Me On The Subway And I Actually Fought Back

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Brock Hansen, LCSW, is a clinical social worker with over thirty years experience counseling individuals with a variety of problems related to shame, anger and criticism.

Author
Expert