Science Says Fat-Shaming Backfires

In “Science Confirms: ‘Fat Shaming’ Just Makes Things Worse,” Kris Gunnars advises people to avoid fat-shaming. Not only is it morally-repugnant to make normative statements about others’ bodies, but even well-intentioned “motivating” comments usually backfire. Authority Nutrition, the host site, touts itself as “evidence-based approach,” reminding readers of the healthy skepticism various literature and even our own thinking processes deserve. And contrary to popular opinion, the evidence is there: an abundance of psychological research suggests fat-shaming often results in stress-triggered overeating. In a cruel irony, platforms such as Reddit’s now-closed fatpeoplehate subreddit actually perpetuate that which they mock. A study of nearly three thousand people found that “weight discrimination was linked to a whopping 6.67 times greater risk of becoming obese.” (Gunnars). Moreover, if people realized that risk of suicidal behavior is twenty-one times higher among the extremely obese than among the average pool of people, they would stop and consider that “health” encompasses physical and mental. Depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders are not “healthy.” These effects are especially strong among women, whom society typically judges more harshly than men based upon weight. This brings issues of intersectionality into play.

“Dominant paradigms, predefined concepts that exist as unquestionable, unchallengeable, are transmitted to us through the culture. Culture is made by those in power: men…. The culture expects women to show greater acceptance of, and commitment to, the value system than men” (Anzualda p. 2).

Anzualda wrote these words in a very different context, but they hold true in discussions of fat-shaming. Are not women held to higher standards of sexual restraint, beauty, and many other traits under the umbrella of femininity? To be a woman is to face a unique set of challenges, as is to be fat. However, combining the two creates an entirely new experience involving more harassment and judgment. This is entirely avoidable, and following the science leads people to the same conclusion as does basic respect: support and acceptance are both morally- and scientifically-superior.