There have been many articles in the newspapers over the past week; all centered a new study from the University of London, which involved data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. After 4 days of looking at a group of nearly 3000 adults over the age of 50 this study has discovered that fat shaming does not help people lose weight.
No shit Sherlock. I could have told you this in 4 minutes, not 4 years.
Researchers found that treatment such as being harassed, receiving poor service whilst shopping and being thought of as stupid could lead to more weight gain. People who suffered such discrimination on a day-to-day basis because of their size gained around 2 pounds in weight on average as opposed to a loss of 1.5 pounds to those that did not.
My question is: Was a 4 year study really needed to find out that some idiot on the street shouting "You fat bas%?rd!" doesn't help you lose weight? That insults and ridicule surprisingly do not make the recipient suddenly want to run to Weight Watchers?
The only person that is acceptable to talk to you about your weight is your doctor; but even then, there are problems of fat shaming. I know many people, myself included, who have gone to the doctors with an issue that had nothing to do with their weight (i.e. a strained wrist after tripping) only to be told that losing weight would help.
In my case, I went to the doctors for the first time in years for a referral to counselling. I knew that the problems I wanted to work through were nothing to do with my size, yet the doctor saw fit to inform me that just losing weight would make me "happier" and after that, my issues would be fine.
I was not aware that a medical degree also enables you to read minds. A medical degree does not come with a free bonus psychology degree as standard. After not receiving the help, or understanding, that I had attended upon my doctor for, I was forced to look elsewhere.
What makes me angry is the assumption by my doctor that the only thing that could possibly be wrong with my mind was how fat I was. He did not see a person, with feelings and real issues that needed dealing with; he just saw fat. My identity as a person does not disappear depending on what figure it says on the scales.
There is nothing new about the endless biases about fat people, but what makes me exceedingly tired is the presumption that you can treat and speak to some of a certain size in any manner that you wish. At times, we seem almost to be treated like another species.
I am not entirely sure what it is that this study set out to accomplish. Was the lead question "Do fat people really eat all the pies?" I wonder? The entire study just seems to be working on a presupposition that when a fat person is insulted; they immediately turn to food. This is a ridiculous myth, but one that apparently took 4 years to disprove.
Even the figures of the so called "obesity crisis" have been misused. A person is classed as obese if their BMI is over 30. This puts them at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. The figures used however also encompass everyone with a BMI of between 25 and 30. This includes not only people who are just slightly overweight but also athletes, body builders, manual labourers and anyone with a larger muscle density. Grouping overweight and obese together just to fit into a crisis scenario is unhelpful to say the least.
The study has been used in various articles as a way of seemingly telling people to stop fat shaming as it "does not help". Whilst a doctor may read this study and start to use a different dialogue with his patients, this is where it ends.
The man on the street who ridicules you from across the street, the woman in the store that laughs at you; the employer who presumes that you are lazy to work; the stranger who presumes that you are stupid based on your size; this study will do nothing to change any of these people's actions. Why? Because they enjoy doing it.
Fat shaming needs to end. Not because it does not motivate people to lose weight; but because it is discrimination and at its core, is bullying and outright discrimination. Fat people deserve to be treated the same way as every other human on the planet, with respect.