Although there are some parts of the world that value fatness and the overweight body, North American isn’t one of them. To be thin in our culture is to be beautiful, successful, professional, smart, valued, and in control of oneself. The opposite can be said about our beliefs about fat, overweight, and obesity. To be fat is to be lazy, gluttonous, of low intelligence and self-control and it’s these faulty beliefs that drive the stigma of fat and fat shame.
Interestingly, long term research examining large populations of people suggest that greater health and longer life relates more with carrying more fat on our bodies than those within the “healthy” ranges of the body mass index. There are many negative outcomes of fat stigma that may not only be harmful to our mental and physical health, but also to our inability to lose the weight our society demands we lose…
1. Mental Health
As an overweight or obese person living in a society that devalues and shames them, it comes as no surprise that this population report higher rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and even weight gain than their skinnier counterparts.
The pressure to lose weight from family, friends, strangers, and medical practitioners is enough to make anyone turn to food as a way to cope. From chronic stress and anxiety to depression and self-hate, fat stigma can wear on one’s mental health resulting in eating and exercise disorders along with isolation and suicide.