Obesity is a widespread epidemic being fought in the U.S. today.
But people who are overweight or obese are fighting a different kind of battle - fat shaming - which according to a new scientific evidence, is causing them more harm than obesity itself.
Body Shaming, Skinny Shaming, And Fat Shaming
Generally, body shaming is the wrongful prejudice against different body types that do not conform to a particular standard. It involves insulting, humiliating, ostracizing, or stigmatizing people based on how heavy or skinny they appear.
There are two types of body shaming: skinny shaming and fat shaming.
Calling a person anorexic because he or she is "too lean or too thin" based on the criteria of some people is an example of skinny shaming.
Fat shaming, on the other hand, aimed mainly at people who are overweight, or at least appear to be on the heavier side, is more crude and pervasive. Obese people are usually used as material for humor or ridicule and are often stereotyped as lazy and unattractive.
Celebrities and public personalities are probably the oldest victims of fat shaming. But with access to online media, particularly social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that circulate photos to a big audience, it makes anyone an easy target in the form of cyber bullying.
Pres. Trump Fat Shaming Comments vs Former Ms. Universe
During the heat of the presidential campaign, now POTUS Donald Trump brought the issue of fat shaming front and center when former Ms. Universe, Alicia Machado, called him out for his traumatizing fat comments, which, according to her, left lasting impacts on her emotional health and well-being.
The Venezuelan beauty queen said Trump, who has just recently bought the franchise for the biggest beauty pageant in the world, called her "Miss Piggy" and an "eating machine" in public. Trump forced Machado to exercise in front of the cameras and threatened to dethrone her if she refuse to comply.
Fat Shaming Is Not A Motivation to Lose Weight
There is a preconceived notion that stigma will inspire people to exercise and lose weight, but authors of a study published in the Obesity, the journal of The Obesity Society, say otherwise.
"We are finding it has quite the opposite effect. When people feel shamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress. In this study, we identified a significant relationship between the internalization of weight bias and having a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a marker of poor health," Pearl explained.
Pearl and her colleagues have found that, above and beyond the effects of body mass index (BMI) and depression, obese individuals who had high levels of internalized weight bias (when people apply negative weight stereotypes to themselves) developed a greater risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
Tom Wadden, PhD, a co-author of the study, emphasized the crucial role of health care providers, the media, and the general public in this scenario. Wadden recommended health care providers to treat obese patients with respect, to discuss the issue of weight sensitively, minus the judgment, and to provide encouraging weight-management strategies to help lessen the risk of weight bias internalization.