While I was roaming the blogosphere like a good blogger should I came across this interesting post, What the Fat Stigma Study Left Out, written by Mrs. Ipockolypse. It is in response to a recently published blog article by the New York Times Is Fat Stigma Making Us Miserable?”
In her response, Mrs Ipockolypse states how “We have a huge section of society that believes in the idea of “shaming people thin.” What she feels is missing from the study is how we ourselves also cause shame by participating in negative self-talk. She believes that since “we can’t control what other people say or do…. what I can do, and that’s be the change I want to see in the world. I can speak kindly of myself. I can speak kindly to others. I can continue to work on erasing my own negative self-talk tape, and replace it with confidence-boosting speeches.” I agree with her 100%. I’d like to add to this by stating we also need to remove the power of those who talk negatively to us by learning to brush it off. People have free will. If they are negative that is their issue. They can only hurt you if you let them.
After reading the original article the researcher in me decided that there are many issues here that can be further explored. As a result I will be conducting a series of posts dedicated to the topics fat stigma and weight discrimination. For the time being I will provide you with my original thoughts as I read through the blog post.
“Being overweight doesn’t necessarily make a person distraught, researchers are learning. Rather, it’s the teasing, judgment and unsolicited advice directed at overweight people that can cause the greatest psychological harm.”
Yes, I call this bullying and of course it causes great psychological harm…
Being the target of weight discrimination can also lead to self-sabotaging behaviors like avoiding the gym or doctor’s office in order to protect against future stigmatization.
This is a biggie for me. When you enter the health profession I assume it is because you want to help people. I read an article once where a young girl was having problems her whole life with breathing and coughing up blood. She was told by doctor after doctor that if she lost weight she would get better. It wasn’t until years later that she finally found a doctor that looked beyond her weight and they found that she had cancer. The previous doctors lack of looking beyond the “fat” caused her to lose either half a lung or a whole lung, I cannot remember at the moment, when if earlier detected it could have been saved. I will definitely be looking further into this subject and will share the article when I locate it.
“We know that obese and overweight people have an increased motivation to avoid exercising in public,” Mr. Hunger said. “They have reported delaying preventative health care, particularly screenings, to avoid stigma from their providers,” he said.
This was me. I constantly used the phrase “I will do _____ after I lose some weight.” I avoided the gym, dance classes, exercise classes, joining weight watchers, social gatherings where I would have to attend alone, and even felt self-conscious walking into a club with friends (I’m too fat to dance, people will make fun of me…). I’ve probably missed out on some fun times being afraid of what others thought of me.
Dr. Bailey says that fat stigma intensified after 9/11, when Americans’ sense of vulnerability translated into increased animosity toward the fat body. “Think about what fat bodies signify culturally,” she said. “Moral weakness, incompetence, the list goes on. Those are also things that threaten national security.”
My first thought when I read this part was WHAT? My fatness is a threat to national security? I will have to look further into this as well!
Fat stigma can have consequences on the body as well. Earlier this year, a study published in Obesity confirmed how weight-based discrimination can increase levels of the hormone cortisol, a marker of stress.
While I’m not one to make excuses for my weight this is an interesting point. I have heard somethings brushed upon about the hormone cortisol and I plan to further research it. The article contributed two studies regarding the hormone. Below is one of them.
Last year, in a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, researchers divided female participants into a control group and a stigma group. Women in the stigma group watched a 10-minute video that included recent media clips of actors and reality show participants overeating, wearing ill-fitting clothes, struggling to exercise and being perceived as repulsive by others. After watching the video, their cortisol levels tended to be far higher than those who watched a neutral video.
In a follow-up study, the researchers used the same research methods and the same videos to test caloric intake after exposure. Following the video, participants were offered snacks of M&M’s, jelly beans and SunChips while filling out a questionnaire. The overweight participants who viewed the stigma video ate more than three times as many calories as overweight women who saw the neutral video.
I am completely guilty of being an emotional eater. After the end of my 12 year abusive relationship I managed to gain 60 pounds in less than a year. I can’t pretend that I do not know how that happened. I didn’t just run into a pile of fat and it became my bestie and decided to hitchhike on my thighs! I emotionally ate and partook in some weekend drinking and staying in bed.
At the end of reading this article, besides all the ideas I have for further research, a few things ran through my head. I wanted to say person-up! Stop being sensitive! Pretty soon we will be living in a society where no one can talk because someone might get upset (there is even a thing called 3rd party sexual harassment!) We are making ourselves miserable by allowing the words of others to have an impact on our feelings. We need to learn to brush the negative talk off not only out of our heads but also off our backs. I have yet to perfect this so I don’t have much room to talk, but I do believe in it!
*As a side note I apologize to all the people who read this post yesterday and commented on it. I accidentally deleted what I thought was a draft of this post from the WordPress phone app. Turns out it was some how connected with the website version and removed it. I was not happy to say the least. I re-wrote the post because it is something I am passionate about.