Today's Globe and Mail ran an article entitled "Shaming the obese - with photos like these - isn't working", which dealt not only with the "headless fattie" syndrome (pictures of fat bodies with no heads) but also with fat discrimination in general. I strongly suggest that you read this article. Here are a few quotes:
Weight bias is one of the last bastions of discrimination. Fat jokes are still de rigueur when an overweight/obese person comes into view. We allow ourselves to use language and images that would never be acceptable when speaking of people with disabilities, visible minorities or other identifiable groups.
These visual and linguistic shortcuts are not necessarily used maliciously but they fuel common stereotypes – namely people who are overweight/obese are lazy, slovenly and weak-willed.
The Protestant work ethic – the notion that individuals can achieve anything through hard work and discipline – is pervasive in Canadian society and it colours our attitudes toward people who are overweight/obese. It leads us to behave – often to the point of cruelty – as if all those who are heavy need to do is pull up their socks or, more to the point, push away from the table.
If only it were that simple.
Losing weight can be tremendously difficult for individuals for a host of reasons – genetics, environment, work demands, and illness – to name a few.
Last week, Toronto was host to the 1st Canadian Summit on Weight Bias and Discrimination. I, for one, am glad that the issue of weight discrimination is being brought out of the shadows. It is abundantly clear that shaming people into losing weight does not work. In fact, dieting is a losing proposition for 95 % of those who try. The interesting (and truly tragic) thing is that an overwhelming majority of those who posted comments to this article subscribe heart and soul to the idea that overweight people are uniformly weak, gluttonous people who CHOOSE to be fat and who could lose weight if they only tried. I wanted to cry reading the venom and bile contained in those comments.
The weight loss industry continues to make billions of dollars selling books, magazines and weight loss methods and foods to desperate people who starve themselves (either literally or nutritionally) and then, out of despair, eat themselves back to an even heavier weight.
I continue to believe that we have totally missed the boat by insisting on dieting rather than encouraging people of all sizes to enjoy physical activity of all kinds and enjoy healthy, tasty food.
The desire to shame is an ugly characteristic of human beings. It is something we should be ashamed of.