Why fat shaming does not inspire people to lose weight

Researchers have warned that so-called fat shaming does not encourage the overweight to shed their excess pounds.

According to a new study, far from having a positive impact, people who are called out on their weight are actually more likely to have a heart attack. Research says that hearing such a brutal message drives people who are already overweight to comfort eat even more, which could increase their risk of developing such conditions as cardiovascular or metabolic disease.

Professor Rebecca Pearl from Pennsylvania University said that many people believed that fat shaming would help people who were obese to see the error of their ways and to start to improve their health habits. However, she said the opposite was actually true. Rather than losing weight, people who were shamed as a result of their size ended up eating more and were more likely not to exercise.

Fat shaming as prejudice

She said there was a strong connection to weight bias and being diagnosed with a metabolic condition. She said that fat shaming was a form of prejudice found in many walks of life, including online, in the criticism celebrities face when they put on weight, at work, school and while in public places.

People who are overweight can find themselves stereotyped as lazy and lacking in willpower. However, she said that those who were shamed by such stereotypes were at greater risk of developing heart disease or diabetes, or from suffering a stroke.

The findings of the research have now been published in the respected Obesity medical journal. Study authors looked at 159 obese adults, asking questions about depression and weight bias. Those who had very negative views of their size were much more likely to have health problems such as a metabolic syndrome.

Co author Tom Wadden urged people and the media to consider that they could be making a situation worse when criticising someone for their weight.






Judith is a qualified journalist who has worked in both the UK and the US, specialising in writing about politics, education and health.