Is there a place for body shaming?

I am sure you can imagine I have had this discussion with myself and patients multiple times. 

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If you make obesity the responsibility of individuals, shame will always be a component. Ie if you think that obesity, poverty, smoking etc are individual choices, society will inevitably shame those who don’t conform to their ideal. 


So I decided to record my thoughts. Many people are going to be coming out of lockdown not looking or feeling the same way they did going into it. So let’s put our preconceptions to one side and explore the utility of “body shaming” (if there are any)


Let me know your thoughts 

Does body shaming have its place?


Listen here: 

Why do I ask?

Covid weight gain is going to cause many of us to shame the way we look. Alcohol and takeaway consumption has increased (ref). We will explore the function of shaming and whether it has a place when it comes to our bodies

Body Acceptance is a growing trend to reduce the harmful affects of body shaming. But is this a plaster for a festering wound? Does shaming have it’s place?


The function of shaming

Control of social norms and hierarchy seems to be the function of shame (ref). For example, promiscuity is shamed. Functionally this historically reduces the rate of STD contraction and scarcity of resources.

Shaming a behaviour however is different to shaming a label. Fat shaming is shaming a label. 


Does shame work?


Body shaming increases weight gain as seen in this study with a sample size of 2944 people (ref)

Shaming helps the shamer. As discussed by Robert Sapolsky in behave. Shaming / bullying reinstates the hierarchical dominance of the shamer. 

Self shame may be a motivator as seen in “away motivations” used in NLP. However these are shortlived 


The predisposing factors for obesity

Obesity is highly correlated to stress; financial, social etc. As seen in the marshmellow experiment

Obesity is a herd problem, not an individual issue as commonly thought of. It is not an individual choice. It is a societal one


The solution

Amsterdam is the only country that has been able to consistently reduce childhood obesity (read here). We copy many of the interventions they used in our clients intervention

  • Eliminate environmental temptation
  • Educate participant and social group
  • Reward with something else other than food
  • Culturally diversifying food and learning to cook
  • Prioritising sleep


To conclude

Shaming benefits the shamer. Not the shamed

Self shame may be useful in initially motivating one but not long term


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