The Health Effects of Fat-Shaming & Why We Have to Stop Promoting Diet and Exercise As a "Solution"

Last week apparently Bill Maher went on a rant about fat shaming. His argument? We need more of it. James Corden replied with this: “If making fun of fat ppl made them lose weight, there would be no fat kids in schools, and I’d have a six pack by now.”

“I’ve been off & on diets since as long as I can remember & this is how it’s going.”
James Corden It was brilliant. But even he’s still missing the point a little and so I wanted to really dive into the topic. That is, fat shaming, weight stigma, and weight loss because like Bill Maher I was someone who also used to fear the fat acceptance movement – but as they say, when we know better, we do better. So, what will follow is decades of personal experience, as well as, almost a decade of professional experience. You see, like tens of millions of other people, I also bought the lie. You know the one I mean, the one that says if I was only thinner, if only I was smaller, if only the scale displayed a lower number, if only I could stick to “diet and exercise” then I’d be worth something – then I’d be happy and healthy and life would be perfect. The lie that says only people who are lazy and no self-control gain weight – the lie that says if only I’d get off my ass and diet and exercise – then I’d be skinny and worthy of love, belonging, goodness, and respect. THEN, I’d be happy – I’d be worth something. But it almost killed me. And it’s all lies. Right down to the “diet and exercise solution” we’ve been sold – and I say that as a former award-winning personal trainer/nutrition & wellness coach. Have you noticed this? You’re sitting around chatting with friends, the subject of weight, or your bodies comes up and everyone is expected to add something derogatory about their body. “I’m so fat. I’m so gross. This shirt makes me look like a whale.” “Yeah, me too… I can’t take it anymore and am starting that keto thing on Monday – so gotta enjoy myself this weekend cuz I’m not gonna be allowed to eat this anymore after that” And if in that discussion you piped up and said, ‘I actually feel OK about the way I look,’everyone there is going to judge you, scrunch up their noses and think “well doesn’t she just think she’s special”…and they probably wouldn’t call you to hang out anymore. That’s how pervasive and expected body hate has become. We’re supposed to be ashamed of our bodies. It’s become not only more acceptable to insult your body than it is to praise it, it’s expected.. it’s even become how we bond… in this weight stigma fueled, collective dysfunction of disordered eating that is serial dieting and body hate. And it is so toxic. My mother has always told me about this one time I was with my grandmother in K-mart when I was 2 – sitting in the shopping cart, I pointed across the aisle and asked loudly… Grammy, why is that lady so fat?! I was 2. I wasn’t born knowing what fat meant but by the time I was 2 years old, I had already been taught to judge it, to question it and not want to be it. I was taught that “letting myself go” by gaining weight was a fate worse than death. So, in my mid-teens, when I put 2 or 3lbs, I was horrified and desperate to take it off. That first attempt at weight loss, would have ended in a very different way had I known then what I know now. But those were the Atkins days. His low-carb miracle cure said carbs were the problem and my weight loss dreams would be answered if I just quit those. But the more I tried to eliminate carbs, the more I thought about and craved them.. and the more weight I’d gain. Each time I tried and failed, I was ashamed and felt like a miserable failure. I spent decades scared of my own growing body! Since “we are what we eat“, I felt like I was bad because I couldn’t stop myself from eating bad stuff. Thoughts like, “you’re a failure, you’re so stupid, weak, pathetic, disgusting!” ran through my head a million times a day. His low carb diet rules destroyed my relationship with food, started a 2 decades long battle with my weight and my already low self-worth ended up even lower. By the time I was in my early 30’s I was borderline morbidly obese and haaaated myself and my body. In 2007, “clean eating” entered my life and within 4 days of trying to follow “clean eating” rules, I had my first binge. The following day, my first compensatory behaviors emerged – I starved myself and exercised for about 3 hours to “make up for it”. Overnight, by doing what I was supposedly “supposed to do” to “solve my weight problem”, my mental health was trashed, just like that. Within 8 months I was sitting in a therapists office, hearing the word bulimic come out of his mouth while bawling my eyes out & begging him to tell me why I couldn’t control myself with food. We’re taught that perfect bodies are the only bodies worthy of love and goodness and the rest… well, the rest must be shamed and blamed into conforming. We’re taught that gaining weight makes us bad and losing weight makes us good. That’s a message we all promote loud and clear every single time someone loses weight and we celebrate them like they just won a Nobel. (but what happens & how do they feel when they regain it – like 95-98% of people who lose weight always do?) So we punish ourselves with decades of dieting, severe calorie restriction, binge eating (the result of feelings of shame and dietary restriction), over (or under) exercising, and a horribly abusive inner dialogue – without even realizing those things and that world, all just making it worse. Personally, at my heaviest, I was borderline morbidly obese for my height – and while I WAS dieting and trying to “stick to” exercise – I just kept getting heavier. Like many people, I started dieting at a healthy weight and “dieted” my way to obesity. And then, also like many people, dieted my way to an eating disorder. Sure, eventually I did manage to lose the weight and become a “success” story. But that’s ridiculous rare (only about 2-5% who lose weight ever actually manage to keep it off). We have GOT to change our definition of success around this whole weight conversation. Weight gain is not failure and weight loss is not success. Especially when so few actually keep it off and so many end up with eating disorders that almost kill us. The sickest thing of all is that in our culture, that’s okay – because it’s better than still being fat, right? No. I carried shame with me every where I went like a 100lb weight wrapped around my neck. I felt like I was the only one who hated myself and couldn’t control myself with food, or “stick to” anything. I thought I was the only who treated my body like a garbage dumpster, the only one punishing myself in that desperate attempt to make my body conform into something considered acceptable. I thought I was the only one using food to so desperate try to fill a hole that I couldn’t quite identify. I thought I was the only one who spent decades in the disordered eating world of serial dieting, and getting up every morning vowing that “today I’m going to be good!”only to hate myself for caving and eating a cookie or something by mid-day. I thought I was the only one who stood in the mirror using words like disgusting, fat slob, gross, and worse when I’d see my reflection. But I wasn’t. There are millions. Trust me when I tell you this – people who struggle with their weight ARE TRYING TO DIET AND EXERCISE THE “PROBLEM” AWAY. It isn’t working. We have to stop telling everyone that’s what they need.(I wrote an ebook that talks more about why it’s not working. If you want a completely free copy, email me: 75-97% of women report having unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviours towards their bodies at least once a day. That is a whopping majority of women who already believe there is something wrong with their bodies. They don’t need you, or Bill Maher or their doctor, or ANYONE else reinforcing it. How, as a society, did we ever come to believe that the answer to physical or mental health is walking around living with shame, unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviours and hating ourselves for not being good enough because of our body size? It’s ridiculous. And we just keep passing it on to each new generation. 80% of 10 year old girls report having been on a diet and more than half of girls as young as six report wanting to be thinner. The scariest part of that is that studies also show the younger a girl is when she starts her first diet, the more likely she is to engage in extreme weight control behaviors (get an eating disorder), gain even more weight, struggle with her weight her whole life, and even abuse alcohol by the time she’s in her 30’s. The average woman makes 3-4 (unsuccessful) weight loss attempts every single year for her entire adult life. Of the rare few people who actually lose weight when they go on a diet, as many as 98% regain it all and 2/3’s of them will weigh 11lbs more than when they started within 5 years. Here’s the thing and I want to make sure this point is made loud and clear: WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO DIET AND EXERCISE THE PROBLEM AWAY. It ISN’T WORKING. It’s making people gain even more weight over time. We have ALL grown up in this diet obsessed culture that taught us 1) weight loss equals success and looking amazing, 2) all weight gain is equally bad… very bad… and needs to be “fixed” 3) it’s the result of being too lazy to “fix” it, unmotivated, weak-willed, having no self-control and 4) you fix it with shame, blame, willpower and band-aids that actually make things worse It’s all lies and it’s NOT working. This post was originally posted for Stone's Pharmasave. Read the whole post at:

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NOTE: While counselors or therapists often use CBT to deal with mental illness or a patient’s mental/emotional conditions and/or processing trauma, MBCT & cognitive eating does not. My roll as a coach, in its most simple form, is to encourage, coach and/or act as a facilitator of a client’s self-reflection, decision making, planning for the future, and creating life changes. As an MBCT & cognitive eating coach, I am obligated to refer clients in need of mental or physical health therapy to an appropriate licensed professional.  

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