Constant criticism and ridicule of overweight people does little to motivate them to slim down, and has now been proven to potentially cause greater weight gain.
A recent report titled Perceived Weight Discrimination and Obesity published in PLOS One found that those who suffered discrimination as a result of their weight were likely to either become or remain obese.
‘Weight discrimination, in addition to being hurtful and demeaning, has real consequences for the individual’s physical health’ said study author Angelina Sutin, a psychologist and assistant professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine.
Endorsing the findings of the study, Sydney-based weight loss motivation specialist Kylie Ryan said ‘There’s a very unhealthy attitude that being overweight is shameful, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to judge people based on their body size. What this does is intensify the problem rather than solve it. Repeated criticism of overweight people builds self-loathing which results in further weight gain from over-eating.’
Ryan believes that weight-loss reality television shows have normalised a harsh approach to obese people trying to lose weight; ‘Viewers of these shows get the voyeuristic joy of watching the contestants get tortured and change their body shape, but it only works to reinforce the belief that ‘I’m a loser because I’m fat’ and ‘I’ll only be successful and loveable when I’m slim and good looking. Many of the very people who are supposed to help those struggling with weight issues have no idea that their contempt is a big part of the problem. This contempt from others echoes the sense of self-contempt, self-loathing and shame that many people who struggle with their weight feel on a daily basis.’
According to Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, stigma and discrimination of overweight people can be chronic stressors. ‘And we know that eating is a common reaction to stress and anxiety – that people often engage in more food consumption or more binge eating in response to stressors, so there is a logical connection here in terms of some of the maladaptive coping strategies to try to deal with the stress of being stigmatised.’
Kylie Ryan believes that unless we remove the social stigmatising of overweight people Australia is facing a bleak future; ‘At the moment we’re on track for 80 per cent of Australians to be overweight or obese by 2025. Imagine the knock-on effect of the majority of our population feeling shameful about their bodies and making decisions based on their own inner turmoil? It’s got to change.’
Source: My Mind Coach