Fat Shaming Pros & Cons
March 2017

Many of us, myself included, have been on the receiving end of weight/health guidance from an overweight/obese health professional. I must admit that the thought ‘why should I listen to health advice from someone who is clearly unhealthy and is not following their own advice crossed my mind more than once.

Recently hypnotist and presenter of Sky's Fat Families, Steve Miller argued that health professionals should lead the fight against the flab. He defines a fat person as anyone who cannot see their feet whilst standing and controversially proposed that all obese NHS staff should carry a fat shaming badges stating, 'I'm fat, but I'm losing it.' This he believes will motivate them and their patients to lose weight and improve their overall health.

Taking the anti obesity message outside the health profession into society at large, Miller also proposed that restaurant menus carry warning messages such as 'if you're fat, think before ordering'. The presenter is also proposing a government ban on groups, which promote 'plus sizes'. He said fat people shouldn't be on the catwalk , ridiculed the word 'curvy' and is asking Theresa May to implement his badge initiative.

Speaking to MailOnline, Miller said: 'Fat shaming people is absolutely honest.

'Being shameful in something is a motivation to do something. Do it constructively and fat shame to encourage people to take ownership of their size and motivate them to lose weight.

'It's about honesty, it's about using the words and not being in denial; but at the same time it's very important to give aspiration.

'Political correctness is killing people. Obesity is massive problem for hospitals.

'We need to shout the message that being fat is unacceptable. It's not the same as someone who is black or gay - there is something you can do if you're fat.

'We need to shame fat and not be worried about it,' he added. 'We need to promote the positivity of being slim.’

54% of NHS workers have a weight problem, compared to 60% of the general population.

Experts are divided over the efficacy of fat shaming. Some people have lost weight due to shaming. E.g.1 Paul Moore 28 was mercilessly fat shamed online after a shirtless photo of him at a music festival went viral; he ultimately lost 54 kg. E.g.2 Emily Case (24) who weighed 23 stones and wore size 28 clothing was fat shamed into losing thirteen stones after bullies threw kebabs at her and shouted 'Oi fatty!'

I’m sure Steve Miller genuinely wants to help the obese and overweight to lose weight and become healthier. However, several research findings have concluded that fat shaming is more likely to make a person overeat and gain weight.

Prof Jane Wardle University College London (UCL) said: ‘Our study (3000 adults) shows weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and not the solution … Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support and, where appropriate, treatment.’

Prof Wardle’s colleague Sarah Jackson said: ‘There is no justification for discriminating against people because of their weight. Our results show discrimination does not encourage weight loss and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain.’ UCL research findings were published in the journal Obesity.

Other studies that conclude that fat shaming causes more problems than it solves:

Fat shaming does not motivate people, but causes them to feel bad and eat more found a study of 2944 individuals (1).

Exposure to weight stigmatizing (study of 93 women) resulted in the women who were overweight eating more (2). A similar study of 73 overweight women reached the same conclusion (3).

Participants (healthy weight) who experienced weight discrimination (study of 6157) were 2.5 times more likely to become obese in later years (4).

Fat shaming can cause psychological and physical harm (5 & 6).

These include:

Depression: People who are discriminated against due to weight are at higher risk of depression and other mental issues .

Those who had experienced weight discrimination are 2.7 times as likely to become depressed (7).

There are also numerous studies showing that depression is very common among people who are obese, especially in extreme obesity (8, 9).

In a study of 2,436 people, extreme obesity was associated with 21 times greater risk of suicidal behavior and 12 times greater risk of suicide attempts (10).

Eating disorders: Fat shaming is linked to an increased risk of eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder.

Reduced self-esteem: Fat shaming is linked to reduced self-esteem.

Stress: Increased stress can cause mental and physical issues (11).