Fat shaming is wrong and harmfulBy Veita Bland, M.D. / February 9, 2017
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As society changes, we are seeing more people vocalize their displeasure with how others may live their lives. Obesity seems to be one of the conditions to which some are very negative. Fat shaming is a term that is used to describe this.
Fat shaming is the act of poking fun of someone for being overweight. This may also include telling someone they are worthless, lazy or disgusting because they are overweight.
Many who implore this tactic feel they are in some way helping that person to lose weight by taunting them, or shaming them into going on a diet. This does not usually happen. Others are readily imploring the tactic to cause emotional harm. Shame on them. Little do they realize how much harm they are truly doing by fat shaming someone.
In a recent study printed in the journal Obesity researchers looked at the stigma of fat shaming. They analyzed whether this had any effect on the long term health of individuals subjected to this stigma.
In this study they measured the blood pressure, waist size, and blood levels of cholesterol, fasting glucose, HDL and triglycerides in adults who were enrolled in a weight loss trial. The researchers were looking to see if these subjects, who felt stigmatized by fat shaming also had additional medical problems. They were specifically looking for the metabolic syndrome which is thought to be a precursor of diabetes.
Dr. Kimberly Gudzune of John Hopkins University in Baltimore stated, “Discrimination clearly can cause chronic stress, which can result in biochemical changes that contribute to weight gain and inflammation (in the body) that lead to abnormalities in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.”
The lead author, Dr. Rebecca Pearl, a psychiatric researcher from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, noted, “Experiencing weight stigma can elicit a psychological stress response marked by elevated blood pressure and inflammation and it’s possible that self-directed weight stigma may be a form of chronic stress as well.”
Researchers believe that people who internalize this weight bias may engage in unhealthy eating behaviors in order to cope with the stress such as eating high calorie foods or so called comfort foods. They also found that when these people applied the negative stereotypes about themselves such as their being lazy, or lacking will power, they were less confident in their ability to perform healthy activities such as exercise to aide in their weight reduction.
All of these reactions can start one down the road to heart disease.
The study found that those who internalized the stigma of obesity were 41 percent more likely to have the metabolic syndrome which is a precursor to diabetes than those who did not internalize the stigma of obesity.
This study makes it clear that we in the medical profession have to monitor the words we use when trying to motivate weight loss. Researchers suggest we equate the number on the scale as we do with blood pressure by simply encouraging the reduction of the number on the scale as a measure of health.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.