"Fat Shaming": A New Form of Bullying
It’s no secret (or surprise) that our society struggles with obesity. Everything in our world is super-sized, deep fried and digitized. We can pull up to any drive-thru window order dinner, talk on the phone, text, email, check our social media, send a tweet and zip off to the next necessary activity of the day without moving a muscle. And Americans love to eat. Food has become more of a social element than a nutritional one. Everyone can find a reason to eat even when they are not hungry; boredom, sadness, happiness, stress, anxiety and even addiction. 35.7% of U.S. adults and nearly 17% of U.S. children considered obese according to recent data provided by the Center for Disease Control.
Unfortunately for me, I fall into that 35.7% category. Suffering from severe food addiction, I have often found myself consuming extremely large amounts of food only to feel shame and disgust in myself afterwards. Food addiction is real; it grabs hold of any logic you have and pulls you into the depths of agony and pain. There are no miracle drugs to cure food addiction. In order to begin to heal from this horrible illness, I have had to learn how to accept myself for who I am now and work toward a healthier me. Complete success is not within reach at this moment; yet another fact I have to accept. Spending several years in a twelve step recovery program, I have the “tools” to use to begin the necessary work; however, sticking to it is more than difficult. Finding myself marred in the reality that I am fat because of my own actions often times creates so much shame and anxiety, which if I am not careful will send me straight to the refrigerator ready to replace those feelings with the pleasure of food; knowing those pleasurable feelings last but a few fleeting moments.
Imagine turning on afternoon television and finding a discussion about fat shaming and how it is being used to “help” people lose weight. Thankfully I did not see the program - my friend posted about it on her Facebook page; out of curiosity I went on an online search to find out what this was all about. To say that I am appalled, disgusted and absolutely sickened does not even begin cover how I feel about this new “craze” that is sweeping the nation.
According to bioethicist Daniel Callahan “fat shaming” is the way to go. Callahan says "Only a carefully calibrated effort of public social pressure is likely to awaken them (the fat people) to the reality of their condition. They have been lulled into “obliviousness” about their problem because they look no different from many others around them." I say, what a load of bull! \Who in their right mind would think that shaming someone would make them feel better? Apparently the idea behind this ridiculousness is that if one is badgered, belittled and berated because they are fat they will find it within themselves to work hard to lose the weight. Most of the overweight people I know already KNOW they are overweight. It’s not a secret. And it’s not something to be proud of. Obesity brings about enough shame so shaming the obese more is nothing more than bullying.
“Today Show” weatherman Al Roker recently spoke about the struggles he experienced being in a “mixed weight marriage”. Roker’s wife, Deborah Roberts also a television personality is a runner who takes excellent care of her body. At a size 4 Roberts would struggle with Roker’s weight insisting that he must not care about her enough to lose the weight and get healthy. Communication, Roker says is the key to dealing with these issues. Thankfully, Roker has managed to lose the weight and keep it off, but he has advice for the thinner half of mixed weight couples; "We know we’re fat. We know we need to lose weight. Your nagging us and pleading with us doesn’t help. In fact, in ways it makes it worse," he said.
I happen to be the heavy one in my mixed weight marriage. I am blessed that my husband has never nagged, questioned or badgered me about my weight. He has never made me feel shame; I can do that all by myself. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even know my weight and I don’t know his. The numbers are not what’s important. Being healthy is what matters. As I struggle with my addiction and subsequent obesity I find comfort in knowing that my husband is in my corner and loves me in spite of my weight and offers positive encouragement instead of shame and guilt.
Shaming someone to lose weight or anything else is unacceptable. Those with self-image issues will only fall deeper into the abysmal hole of shame and self-destruction. Finding positive ways to reinforce good eating habits and esteem building will go much farther than shame. To those who think this type of bullying is okay all I can say is shame on you!