If ever there were a combined pair of words that had the bariatric world buzzing, it’s these two:
FAT SHAMING. These two words can evoke intense emotions for those who have, or who are,
suffering from the disease of obesity. Similarly, the family members and loved ones of those
who suffer from the disease of obesity are highly sensitive to the numerous varieties of “fat
shaming” that takes places in our society.
The words that come to mind when I think about the cruelty imposed on people whose physical
bodies carry excess weight include “tragic, cruel, thoughtless, ignorant and completely
unnecessary.” Of course there are many others, and I’m sure anyone who has been victimized
by this sort of bullying could supply a plethora of words to describe the anger, shame,
humiliation, sadness and dejection they experience.
Anger and disgust are two emotions that capture what I feel in reference to the fat shaming
done by others to those who are struggling with excess weight. Intense sadness is what I feel
when I hear persons who are suffering from obesity engage in fat shaming of themselves.
Much is being done to help stop the public and organizations from engaging in fat shaming.
Several national groups have major campaigns geared toward highlighting negative attitudes and
behaviors related to fat shaming. Clearly, more efforts are needed in this area and the tide
continues to move in favor of this happening.
What about the ways in which the person suffering from obesity fat shames him/herself? Every
day I hear patients shame themselves in ways that are no less critical, demeaning, tragic, or cruel
than the comments of those “others” we target in the campaigns designed to stop fat shaming.
“I’m a failure.” “I don’t believe I’m lovable.” “I hate myself.” “I’m not worth it.” “I look disgusting.”
“No one would want to be with someone like me.” “I feel filled with shame.”
While I applaud the efforts of everyone participating in putting an end to fat shaming, I would
love to see as much public and personal emphasis placed on encouraging individuals to refrain
from engaging in shaming self-talk that is often directly or indirectly related to their weight.
When strangers, family members of co-workers engage in fat-shaming comments, gestures
or behaviors, they diminish and dismiss the fact that they are referring to a human being who
has thoughts, feelings, talents and unique qualities that have nothing whatsoever to do with
their physical size. When a person suffering from obesity engages in negative self-talk that
is somehow related to their weight, they, too, diminish and dismiss so much of who they are
as a human being. So much of their goodness.
Engage in the public outcry against fat shaming. Equally as important, get and please, please
refuse to fat shame yourself. Are you upset with others who engage in fat-shaming, yet you
are actively engaging in the fat-shaming of yourself?
Use the 4 ACES to eliminate self fat-shaming:
AWARENESS: Listen to your self-talk. Become aware of when you talk negatively to yourself
about yourself, particularly if it has to do with your weight. Replace your negative thought with
a more neutral or positive self-statement.
ACCEPTANCE: Accept that it will take time (a LONG time) for you to consistently engage
in positive self-talk. Every time you say something compassionate and loving about yourself, you
are moving in the right direction!
ACCOUNTABILITY: Ask your closest friends and family members to help you become aware
of when they hear you being critical of yourself. Then take responsibility for rephrasing what you
said into something neutral or positive.
ATTITUDE: “I tried that. It didn’t work.” That’s not the attitude that will get you to where you want
to be. “I’ll work on this because I’m worth it,” is a more useful attitude!
COMMITMENT: Every. Single. Day. For the rest of your life. That kind of commitment.
EFFORT: See above. That kind of effort.
SELF: YOU. YOURself. You’re worth it.