Body shaming is pretty gross and terrible, but is it actually tough love–and a cure for obesity?
That’s what one expert is suggesting. Daniel Callahan, who works for The Hastings Center (which focuses on bioethics–meaning the ethics of health and life science related issues), thinks that the best cure for obesity is to enforce the stigma that being fat is bad.
Part of his proposed cure for obesity is to put up public posters with sayings like, “If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?” To which we say, um, dude–are you kidding? Is making people hate themselves going to motivate them to be healthy? Of course not.
It turns out, psychologists agree with us that this dude’s cure for obesity is really little more than an excuse for bullying–and will not work at all. “No amount of teasing, probing questions about what they wish they could do, or medications seem to help,” psychologist Dr. Tom Inge, who’s also an expert on childhood obesity, told NBC News. “So if one is proposing to help them by more stigmatization, that would seem at once both antithetical and unethical.” (That means that not only will bullying fat people not work, it’s also just a terrible thing to do.)
Still, Dr. Callahan insists that not only is being mean a cure for obesity, but that it also worked to curb smoking. “The force of being shamed and beat upon socially was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health,” he wrote in his paper.
Here’s the thing, though. People didn’t so much stigmatize smokers as bad people–they just had them go outside and in their own sections because smoking actively can harm others who aren’t partaking in it. Secondhand smoke can kill you. Sitting next to an obese person won’t clog your arteries. Try again, jerk.
Eating disorder expert Deb Burgard agreed with us and also explained, “Deciding whether to smoke or not is a behavior. The weight your body is is not a behavior.”
Everyone knows that being overweight or obese isn’t good for your health. Most people who are overweight or obese aren’t happy about it, and harping on someone’s appearance isn’t going to motivate them to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable or stable way. Think of it this way: If you had issues with algebra, would someone calling you dumb make you figure out an equation faster? Probably not.
Basically, being unnecessarily condescending and hurtful is not going to solve any problems anywhere. Promoting knowledge and information about healthy habits and encouraging people to love themselves enough to treat their bodies well is a lot more likely to be effective than using cruelty as a cure for obesity.
Do you think fat shaming is a cure for obesity? What do you think would work as a cure for obesity? Do you think there will ever be an actual cure for obesity? Tell us in the comments!