Fat-Shaming Actually Makes People’s Health Worse

Fat-Shaming Actually Makes People’s Health WorseFat-Shaming Actually Makes People’s Health Worse

Fat shaming people into losing weight, has the reverse effect and makes them more likely to have a heart attack, according to new research.

The idea that fat shaming - the term used to describe mocking a person for their size - inspires victims to shed the pounds is a myth, scientists have warned.

Researchers said painful messages drive people towards comfort eating and may increase the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, the Irish Independent reported.

Professor Rebecca Pearl, of the University of Pennsylvania, said there is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health.

“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,” she said.

“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.” 

People who are battling obesity, face being stereotyped as lazy, incompetent, unattractive, lacking willpower and to blame for their shape.

Those who “internalize negative stereotypes” face a greater threat of heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

The study published in the medical journal Obesity found this was “above and beyond” the effects of body mass index (BMI) and depression.

It examined 159 obese adults who were enrolled in a larger clinical trial testing the effects of weight loss medication.

The study began with questionnaires measuring depression and “weight bias internalization” before any intervention was given.

This occurs when people apply negative weight stereotypes to themselves, such as believing they are lazy or unattractive, and devalue themselves because of their size.

Participants also underwent medical examinations, which determined whether they had a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, a number of risk factors, such as high triglycerides, blood pressure, and a large waist circumference, which are associated with heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and other obesity-related health problems. Those who had a very negative impression of their size were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome, and six times more likely to have high triglycerides, or blood fats.

Co-author Professor Tom Wadden said: “Health care providers, the media, and the general public should be aware blaming and shaming patients with obesity is not an effective tool for promoting weight loss, and it may in fact contribute to poor health if patients internalize these prejudicial messages.

“Providers can play a critical role in decreasing this internalization by treating patients with respect, discussing weight with sensitivity and without judgment, and giving support and encouragement to patients who struggle with weight management.”

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