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Science Proves It: Fat-Shaming Causes Weight Regain

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Back in July, I refuted Milo Yiannopoulos’s article stating that fat-shaming leads to weight loss. I showed that fat-shaming exacerbates the problem and makes weight problems worse (ironic, because fat-shamers believe what they’re doing causes weight loss. Not according to any published study I’ve encountered), BMI categories need changing since the BMI with the lowest rate of death is one with BMI 27, and that, contrary to popular belief, metabolically healthy obese people do indeed exist (Bluher, 2012). Now the studies on weight-discrimination are from questionnaires, and one who objects could rightfully say “Well, fat people may think that anything is weight discrimination because they’re so self-conscious.” That is an extremely good point to bring up about these studies.

What do we know about weight discrimination? Those who perceive weight discrimination are more likely to either keep weight on or gain more weight over a long period of time. When one is shamed for their weight, cortisol levels should increase, which then increase insulin. Insulin causes obesity, so we can now see what occurs when cortisol is released in the body due to fat-shaming.

Just this past October, a paper was published in the journal Obesity called Perceived weight discrimination and chronic biochemical stress: A population-based study using cortisol in scalp hairThey took data from 563 non-smoking individuals from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The participants in the study reported whether or not they have ever felt discriminated against in a questionnaire. Hair cortisol concentrations “were determined from the scalp-nearest 2-cm hair segment”. Height and weight were objectively determined. The following variables were controlled for: “age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and BMI.”

What they discovered proves that fat-shaming makes the problem worse: the mean hair cortisol concentrations were 33 percent higher in those who had experienced weight discrimination than those who hadn’t! Moreover, the relationship between weight discrimination and elevated hair cortisol was worse for people who were classified severely obese (class II [30 to 34.9 BMI] and class III [BMI equal to or greater than 40]).

The authors conclude that weight discrimination is associated with the experience of stress at the biological level. I will repeat again for anyone who still believes that fat-shaming does anything: weight discrimination is associated with the experience of stress at the biological level. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of cortisol may play a role in exacerbating the abhorrent cycle of obesity and fat-shaming, causing further health problems.   I’d love to see how people who believe that fat-shaming works would respond to this paper. It’s plainly written clear as day that fat-shaming causes stress at the biological level.

Cortisol is an essential hormone we secrete during times of stressCortisol is secreted in response to a stressor, in order to help you cope with that stressor efficiently. Exercise (hunting for our ancestors), disrupts homeostasis because of the stressors that are put on the body. The stressors then require an adaptive response, which is cortisol. Most anything our ancestors did disrupted homeostasis, causing cortisol to be secreted. Because of increased cortisol levels during times of need, you can push through certain things than if you didn’t have that cortisol increase due to the stressor that made your body secrete the extra cortisol.

Cortisol is secreted as a response to stressors. Basically, we secrete cortisol so we can better deal with stress. Clearly, fat-shaming is stressful; which is seen in hair cortisol concentration. There is now biological evidence that fat-shaming leads to cortisol secretion.

During times of stress, the hormones cortisol and insulin rise together, sending a strong signal to the body to store fat. Now think of this from an evolutionary viewpoint. For our ancestors, times of stress included but were not limited to: running from predators, chasing prey, times of famine, etc. When food was scarce for our ancestors, cortisol was secreted and what little food our ancestors did eat was more easily stored as body fat. Knowing the biological reasons WHY cortisol is associated with the storage of body fat and weight gain is imperative for our understanding of this phenomenon. 

With the rising rates of obesity in the first-world, we need to discover the hormonal causes of obesity. Since CICO is irrelevant to human physiology, current research should be directed to discovering which hormones exacerbate obesity and how we can curb these problems.

It’s clear that fat-shaming doesn’t work. Idiots like Milo who either a) only read ‘what they agree with’ or b) read a paper they DON’T agree with while cherry-picking from the paper what supports their claim. It’s clear that fat-shaming doesn’t work; it’s clear that fat-shaming causes biochemical stressors that exacerbate weight gain and further make the problem worse. Whoever truly believes that fat-shaming works, do me a favor. Do a bit of reading into the literature on this subject and let me know what you think. Let me know if you discover a study showing that fat-shaming works. I’ll make it easy for you: you won’t discover a study like that because they do not exist (save whatever studies Milo spun to ‘prove his point’).

Fat-shaming exacerbates the problem of obesity and, contrary to fat-shamers, it makes the problem worse. If one truly believes that fat-shaming works to ‘help’ people lose weight, they should then find other, actual ways to help cull the 70 percent obesity rate in America at the moment. One more thing: your friend who got made fun of and lost weight and kept it off (a double rarity) does not refute this data, so you’ll have to address what is written in this article if you would like to prove me wrong. N=1 doesn’t say anything to what is written in this article.