Fat-shaming is not only wrong and mean-spirited, it also happens to have an adverse effect on people's health.
A new study from the University of Pennsylvania shows fat-shaming people could actually increase the risk of heart disease in obese people.
Some people might assume that trying to shame someone into changing their behavior or exercising will help them lose weight -- but they couldn't be more wrong.
According to lead researcher Rebecca Pearl, an assistant professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, "there is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health."
However, her team have found quite the opposite. She explained,
When people feel shamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress. In this study, we identified a significant relationship between the internalization of weight bias and having a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a marker of poor health.
Pearl and her colleagues looked at 159 people who were first asked to fill out a questionnaire measuring depression and weight bias internalization (negative weight-related stereotypes about themselves).
Then, the participants were given medical examinations to determine if they had metabolic syndrome or any risk factors associated with heart disease.
At first, no link was found between weight bias internalization and metabolic syndrome.
But, when the participants were split into two groups, separated by “high” and “low” levels of weight bias internalization, the researchers found the participants with high internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome and six times more likely to have high triglycerides
Long story short, fat-shaming people doesn't help whatsoever. It only makes things worse.
Tom Wadden, PhD, a professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and director of Penn's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders and co-author of the study, said,
Health care providers, the media, and the general public should be aware that blaming and shaming patients with obesity is not an effective tool for promoting weight loss, and it may in fact contribute to poor health if patients internalize these prejudicial messages. Providers can play a critical role in decreasing this internalization by treating patients with respect, discussing weight with sensitivity and without judgment, and giving support and encouragement to patients who struggle with weight management - behaviors everyone should display when interacting with people with obesity.
What you say to people can literally have serious health consequences.
Life's short, be kind to others.