In certain situations, a little tough love is appropriate. Sometimes we need a reality check when it comes to bad behavior. Our parents, friends, and family are coming from a loving place in most cases and they just want to see us happy and thriving. Under some circumstances, placing undue attention on our issues actually does more harm than good. Fat-shaming is one of those times.
According to a recent study published in Obesity, people who are made to feel badly because of negative stereotypes about their weight were three times more likely to have a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke than people of similar weight who did not feel the same way.
Rebecca Pearl is the study's lead author and an assistant professor at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. She told the Huffington Post that the internalization of weight bias has a relationship with poor health. "There is this misconception that’s out there that a little bit of stigma might help to motivate people or ... get people to change their health behaviors," said Pearl. "That’s not the case."
In other words, making degrading remarks or ridiculing someone about their weight will not motivate them to take positive action about it. Studies conducted in the past suggest that feeling shame about your physical appearance puts you at risk of low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, anxiety, and depression. There are also reports of weighing more, bigger waistlines, greater tendency to become obese, and a higher risk of mortality. All of these factors contribute to the onset of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Study participants were examined for the presence of weight-bias internalization to determine the extent to which they felt stigmatized by weight-related stereotypes. Their medical exams assessed blood pressure, waist circumference, triglyceride levels, HDL cholesterol, and glucose levels. Unhealthy levels in any three of these areas constituted a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a term used to describe the group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Pearl believes that the solution to this problem lies in sensitivity from healthcare providers and the general public alike. Weight isn't just a number on the scale, rather it is a physical manifestation of other issues. "Weight is a complex issue," Pearl said. "It involves biological factors, environmental factors and things that do not involve personal characteristics at all. It’s important for people to remember that weight is not a reflection of personal character."
This all boils down to respect. Whatever your issue, whether it is weight or intelligence or finances, we are all entitled to some support and understanding. Nobody likes being embarrassed or degraded. Instead of tearing someone down, do your best to lift them up. Wouldn't you want someone to do the same for you?