Where Does Helpful Advice End and Fat Shaming Start?

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Fat shaming, that new expression that has entered into the public lexicon in recent years.   

I read an excellent article on the subject the other day by the journalist Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. You can see it at the foot of this blog.

She spoke about her own experience of losing weight and how it took a frank discussion with her family doctor to convince her that she needed to do something to protect her health. She took the message on board and found a way to lose 3 stone in weight.

I also read with interest and outrage that a female comedian expressed negativity at a campaign being run by Cancer Research UK to make the connection between obesity and an increased risk of cancer. There followed a tirade of abuse and criticism directed at Cancer Research for their ‘fat shaming’ campaign.

So, we have two people, who have reacted in a completely different way to the same message. I have to come down on the side of Cancer research in this case. They are informing people, who may not know, that their life is at increased risk due to their weight. There will be a proportion of people who have not made the connection between their weight and cancer, and an increased risk of death. My experience of weight loss patients is that the trigger for them to do something about their weight is a very personal thing. Some have a difficult time getting into an aeroplane seat, some get out of breath chasing the kids, some hear an insulting comment and some are given a message by their GP that causes them to view their weight in a different way. 

When a health professional or charity is informing a group who are at increased risk I really can’t view that as fat shaming, and to call it such distracts people from the real problem of fat shaming. I’d be interested to hear what you think. There is a follow-on argument that says ‘what are you going to do about these people that now know they are at risk’ and that is the harder problem, but education and information has to be a good starting point.

Useful links:

Weight loss surgery

Cancer Research UK

Article: I’m proof fat shaming works

Martyn Berrett

Martyn Berrett

Martyn is the former MD of Healthier Weight. Throughout his tenure he observed many bariatric procedures and took part in several research projects so has a unique perspective on all things weight loss.

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