'Fat-Shaming' Strategy Pushed By Bioethicist Daniel Callahan To Help Curb Obesity
'A prominent bioethicist is offering a controversial fix for America's obesity epidemic: "fat-shaming."
Daniel Callahan, senior research scholar and president emeritus of the Hastings Center, makes the suggestion in a new article, "Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic."
Callahan likens what he calls his "edgier strategy" to anti-smoking campaigns of recent decades.
"As a smoker, I was at first criticized for my nasty habit and eventually, along with all the others, sent outside to smoke, and my cigarette taxes were constantly raised," he writes in the article, published on Dec. 18. "The force of being shamed and beat upon socially was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health... Why is obesity said to be different from smoking?"
Callahan continues, "Only a carefully calibrated effort of public social pressure is likely to awaken them to the reality of their condition. They have been lulled into oblivious-ness about their problem because they look no different from many others around them."
Many have spoken out against Callahan's proposed fat-shaming.
?No amount of teasing, probing questions about what they wish they could do, or medications seem to help,? Dr. Tom Inge, a childhood obesity expert at the Cincinnati Children?s Hospital Medical Center, told NBC News. ?So if one is proposing to help them by more stigmatization, that would seem at once both antithetical and unethical.?
?For him to argue that we need more stigma, I don?t know what world he?s living in,? Deb Burgard, a California psychologist specializing in eating disorders, told NBC. ?He must not have any contact with actual free-range fat people."
Obesity is certainly a prevalent problem in the U.S., with 35.7 percent of U.S. adultsand nearly 17 percent of U.S. children considered obese, according to recent data provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Obesity can lead to long-term health effects, such as diabetes, heart disease and several types of cancer. In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity-related health problems tipped the scale at $147 billion in the U.S.
Although Callahan might consider his idea new and edgy, fat-shaming has been used before -- and has failed.
In February 2012, Disney and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association teamed up to help children ?fight bad habits" and launched a fat-shaming initiative, featuring a theme park exhibit, a website and an app. The project included overweight, animated characters named "Snacker," "Lead Bottom" and "The Glutton," according to Salon.
The exhibit prompted an uproar online and was closed after three weeks.
AboutFace, an organization aimed at combating harmful media messages, criticizedGeorgia's Strong4Life campaign, a fat-shaming effort in February 2012 that had used advertisements featuring photos of "sullen overweight children" and captions like ?Fat prevention begins at home. And the buffet line" in an attempt to fight childhood obesity.
?We know from communication research that when we highlight a health risk but fail to provide actionable steps people can take to prevent it, the response is often either denial or some other dysfunctional behavior,? Marsha Davis, a childhood obesity prevention researcher at the University of Georgia?s College of Public Health, told AboutFace. ?We need to fight obesity, not obese people.?
What do you think? great idea? Horrible? Do you think that drastic action like this needs to happen to open American's eyes to the (insane) proportion of overweight people we are as a nation? It is a costly costly problem, is it okay to use shaming techniques to stimulate change?
If something like this was going to work it would have worked a LONG time ago. Everyone I have known that is overweight is ashamed of their weight already, they don't need someone else to tell them. They already know. I don't think piling it on will help anything.
Mom to Lee, Jake, Brandon, Rocco
Stepmom to Ryan, Regan, Braden, Baley
Granddaughters Kylie 10/18/2010 & Aleya 4/22/2013
I never consider a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosopy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend. --Thomas Jefferson
It's nutrition education we need, not shame for those who are already there and feel like it's impossible to get to a healthy weight. We need positive programs like Weight Watchers, not shame and humiliation. Yeesh.
Laurie, mom to:
Nathaniel ( 10 ) and Juliet ( 7 )
Baking Adventures In A Messy Kitchen (blog)
Horrible idea. Just yesterday I was reading a post on FB from a daughter of a friend of mine. She is 13 years old. She is also overweight. I can remember running into her mother several years ago at the store. She had curbed her whole families diet to fit the needs of her child. At the time I thought it was so odd to put a child on a diet. She has been under a very strict doctor led diet since she was about 5 years old. Now at 13 she is still on a very strict diet and training for a 5K race. She is still very over weight and has been diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. There is something wrong with her body that makes her very overweight even though she is kept on a strict diet and exercise program. It was heartbreaking for me to listen to this girl talk about the bulling and awful things people say about her weight. 13 is such a fragile age to deal with something like that. Her mother also has been horribly judged for her daughter being overweight. It has altered their whole family. Shaming someone is not the answer.
I challenge you to find someone that is overweight and does not know or care. Being skinny also does not mean you are ultra healthy. As I have used in examples in the past, my sister eats twice what I eat and weighs a whopping 110 pounds. I tend to eat when I am upset as do a lot of people I know. Trying to make someone upset will have the opposite effect that they are trying to have. Coupled with the fact that so many young ladies and woman struggle with eating disorders. Positive education and encouragement is a much better motivator than shame.
not only wrong evil.. how cruel
DH-Aug 30th 1997 Josiah - 6/3/02 Isaac 7/31/03
Does anyone remember the little boy that sang the cupcake song? He had the chubbiest cheeks and is clearly obese. Well guess what, he has a disease that causes him to look like that. It has nothing to do with over eating or choosing unhealthy choices. So many people on youtube made fun of that kiddo, but he has done positive with his life being only 14 years old (I think) now. Telling people they are obese or underweight is the easy way out. Offering guidance and advice is what needs to be done and also being sensitive to medical conditions.
i think that some social stigmatization of some of the non-medical causes of obesity would be good, much like smoking. we didn't come down hard on those who have cancer...we came down hard on the smoking itself.
stigmatize soda drinking, super-sizing. stigmatize processed food. That's why i get so annoyed about the uproar that nyc's large soda ban caused. we need more policies that shout 'hey we don't care what benefits corporate America...drinking that much soda inone sitting is BAD. i think banning cigarettes from bars and restaurants did a ton to stigmatize smoking without directly berating and shaming people.
i think we could use more of that
Last edited by KimPossible; 03-01-2013 at 08:59 AM.
Cecilia Marie 1/10/10
Photo By Anne Schmidt Photography
I can only speak to my own experience with this, but I will say that I think that body image goes a lot deeper into a person's sense of self worth than smoking. I smoked for about 5 years, and during that time, yes I knew it was bad for me, and saw all of the anti-smoking stuff and everything, but it didn't make me feel bad about myself, and ultimately that's not why I quit.
Body image is a lot more insidious than that. I've struggled to maintain a healthy weight for most of my adult life. I'm usually somewhere right above or right below the cut off between a healthy and overweight BMI, and when I'm not pregnant, fighting the good fight to get below the line or stay there. When I weigh more than I want to, I don't just worry about my health, I literally feel bad about myself, like being 10 lbs heavier makes me a bad person. It's not really rational; I know that. But I think it's common, this sense of putting waaaaay to much of your self worth into how much you weigh. I can't imagine that "fat shaming" would actually help most people; I think it would just make them feel worse about themselves, which isn't actually a great recipe for getting them to make positive changes. I know that when I get "down in the dumps" it's a lot harder to motivate myself to work out and cook healthy meals and what not. There is almost this sense of "why bother?" When I'm in a better and more confident place, I can get myself pumped about doing the healthy things that I need to do, like working out and eating better. I think if anything is going to work, it would be putting a lot more emphasis and positivity around healthy habits, really highlighting those things as great things to do, and also putting a lot of emphasis on people loving themselves no matter what size they are. I find I take much better care of the things I love than the things I hate.
-Alissa, mom to Tristan (5) and Reid (the baby!)
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This is upsetting. How horrifying.
Speaking from the chubby side, it's not as if we don't realize we are overweight. We have plenty of people nasty to us over it. AND IT NEVER HELPS US GET THINNER. EVER!!!!
Being cruel to someone is just that. Being cruel. I don't care why. It's just shameful itself.
I know thats not really what the original article was about. But I think it would be an effective alternative. I don't think "overeating is bad" or "unhealthy eating is bad" should be taboo.