Fat Shaming: A Social Stigma

There’s no doubt that obesity carries with it a ton of health risks; however, for today’s article, I want to focus on the mental health consequences of fat shaming.

I was surprised to see a piece in the most recent issue of Psychology Today on this topic. Within the article, the writer discussed how plus-sized people tend to face verbal and nonverbal harassment and disrespect as a result of their body size. While there are no studies proving the cause-and-effect relationship between this type of bullying and mental health distress, there are correlational studies that support the obvious:

  • One study found that 27% of participants experienced psychological distress as a result of discrimination because of obesity.
  • Another study found that while being discriminated against (bullied), people experience inflammation due to the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. At high levels, cortisol has been known to result in a variety of mental health symptoms to include anxiety, fatigue, decreased concentration, and confidence issues.

What can we do about it?

Dr. Renee Elgeln, the author of the aforementioned Psychology Today article said it best,

“If you are truly concerned about the link between obesity and health, challenge the stigmatization of fat bodies and work towards a world where people of all sizes are treated fairly.”

In essence, Dr. Elgeln is reminding us of the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you want to be treated.”

I’ve written in the past about my own history with obesity and weight loss, so this topic is of particular importance to me. In addition, my wife is plus-sized and faces a lot of stigma that takes a toll on her confidence and self-esteem at times. She’s currently 8 months pregnant and has been body shamed on numerous occasions by the doctor who’s supposed to deliver our baby…

We can never have enough reminders to be kind.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Share with me in a reply or comment.

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