No more fat-shaming
Fat-shaming has been a hot topic recently. Of course it’s not just fat-shaming women deal with…
We cop a lot of body-shaming, don’t we? Too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too busty, too flat-chested, too hairy, too sexy, too athletic, too whatever. There’s always someone to tell us we don’t look quite right. And if we don’t look right, it’s a short trip to concluding there must be something wrong with us.
What is shame?
Brené Brown (the famous shame and vulnerability researcher) defines shame as an intensely painful feeling stemming from the belief we are flawed and thus unworthy of love and belonging.
Today many of us believe our bodies are flawed. We believe we are the wrong shape or size. And let’s face, most of us are the wrong shape or size if we are supposed to look like the current supermodels. But that tall, slim, leggy look is probably the natural shape for only about 5% of the female population. (Okay, I made up that number but given that Photoshop is used on most magazine images, even the people we think have the ideal look don’t have it so I reckon it’s a pretty small number.)
The point is we are not all supposed to be tall, slim and leggy. But constant comparison of our bodies (I’m speaking to the other 95% of us) to this body-type can make it easy to feel flawed in your own skin.
It can be easy to feel body-shame but if you’re overweight, fat-shaming takes things to another level.
What is fat-shaming?
Fat-shaming is the act of criticising someone publicly for being overweight. Usually it’s comments designed to be hurtful and humiliating about carrying excess weight.
I imagine some people think fat-shaming might help stop the obesity epidemic. We know being obese is a serious and increasing public health issue. Each year the percentage of overweight and obese people in Western countries is increasing, along with statistics for related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension and joint disease. It’s all costing taxpayers a lot of money. Surely a little fat-shaming wake-up call could only help…?
But it doesn’t.
Fat-shaming doesn’t work to change behaviour. Hurtful comments rarely work to help anyone return to a healthy weight; in fact they may well have the opposite effect.
There’s a time and a place for tough love of course but tough love must come from a foundation of loving concern. Fat-shaming is about humiliation, not love. True tough love is best left to those who know the back-story. And it doesn’t need to be done in public.
Intuitively we would expect encouragement to work much better than humiliation.
Now, I have a question for you:
Are YOU a fat-shamer?
It’s easy to see how negative judgements and harsh words made by others about our size or shape hurt but have you ever stopped to consider your own comments towards yourself? We are often our own worst enemies. Are you using fat-shaming tactics towards yourself?.
In my own life and in my coaching work, I know how women talk to themselves about their bodies. We often criticise ourselves and call ourselves names – fat pig, lazy-arsed heifer, thunder-thighs, porker, Michelin man. (I’ve heard all these and more from clients.) We say things to ourselves that most of us (other than the likes of Katie Hopkins perhaps) would never say to another human being. Yet it is common for a woman to use her own self-talk to try to shame herself into losing weight.
It still doesn’t work. Whether the source is internal or external, fat-shaming is more likely to have the opposite effect. This is because shame is not a helpful or productive emotional state according to Brené Brown. She says:
I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behaviour than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.
I agree. We become dangerous to ourselves. When we feel unworthy of love, we also feel unworthy of kindness. We decide we are not worth looking after. We are not deserving. Is it any wonder that fat-shaming – regardless of the source – results all too often in excessive comfort-eating or even frenzied binge-eating? These behaviours are surely “dangerous” to our physical and mental health.
But when we feel worthy it is natural to look after ourselves; we naturally choose to behave in ways that create health.
Become aware of your internal voice
If your internal voice is critical and using fat-shaming tactics, you must catch it and counter it. No one can hear that voice but you so your job is to become aware of that voice and counter the criticism with words of encouragement.
Shaming doesn’t change behaviour so let’s drop the fat-shaming comments and start practicing encouragement.
Until next time