Tough love and body shaming in the headlines

body shaming children

Another day, another example of hideous body shaming hits the headlines. This one doesn’t involve a celebrity, but it does involve a rather opinionated woman called Hilary telling the world via the Daily Mail that she didn’t want her two-year-old to go to a nursery because two of the staff members were obese.

Not only that, but she admitted to only eating 1500 calories a day every day to stop herself getting fat, and said that it was possible to stay healthy despite the fact she mentioned three separate health conditions she was suffering from. These weren’t obesity related but they were serious health problems, which rather negated her point that she was ‘managing to stay healthy’

Body shaming and children

Her poor daughter if she ever gets chubby. She’s already being set up for a lifetime of eating issues if her mother is that concerned about her being fat that she won’t let her be taught by a fat person. Apparently, body positivity has ‘gone too far’ and what we need is a dose of ‘tough love’ – for tough love, read ‘body shaming’. Really?

This woman clearly hasn’t even done the tiniest bit of research into her rant, because if she had, she would know that studies have shown fat-shaming is one of the worst things you can do for an overweight person’s health and future weight. Slamming someone for being obese doesn’t encourage them to lose weight. In many cases it results in weight gain.

Body shaming studies

A study of almost 3,000 adults were asked if they had ever been discriminated against because of their weight, whether that was harassment, being treated with less respect that slimmer counterparts, being on the end of poor service in shops and restaurants or, like this teacher, being treated as less intelligent based purely on their weight.

About 5 percent of the people studied said they had been fat shamed. Over a four-year period, the people who reported body shaming and weight discrimination put on around two pounds on average in weight, while those didn’t, lost about 1.5 pounds.

“Obesity is a physiological issue,” according to researcher Markus Schafer, a doctoral student in sociology and gerontology at Purdue University. “But when people have negative interactions in their social world, including a sense of being discriminated against, it can make matters worse and contribute to a person’s declining physical health.”

It gets worse. It doesn’t matter what people actually weighed, the people who felt that they’d been treated differently because of their size actually believed that they were heavier than those who hadn’t faced discrimination.

The study showed that weight discrimination is clearly unhelpful. Jane Wardle, director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre at University College London, said (and I’m sure there are many people reading this who can nod their heads in agreement)

“Many obese patients report being treated disrespectfully by doctors because of their weight. Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support.”

Weight discrimination has been linked to comfort eating and eating high fat, high sugar foods according to Sarah Jackson, also of University College London. She added,

“Fat shaming may also make people feel less confident about engaging in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it.”

Another study published in 2015 found that people aren’t fat experience weight discrimination are 2.5 times more likely to become obese later than people who don’t.

So, Hilary, enjoy your five minutes of click bait fame, but don’t kid yourself that stopping your child from associating with anyone you consider to be too fat, or body shaming complete strangers in nurseries will help anyone. Least of all your impressionable little girl…