Fat Shaming, Contempt and What’s Wrong with the Weight Loss Industry.

Fat Shaming, Contempt and What’s Wrong with the Weight Loss Industry.

I have been thinking a lot about what is wrong with the weight loss industry. There is a key unspoken paradigm which underpins all of the weight loss industry which says “Fat is bad. Fat is lazy. Fat is shameful”

This paradigm itself must change if the worlds’ obese are ever going to get the care and help that they really need.

Contempt from the people supposed to help.

I watched a TED talk the other day by a medical doctor, Dr Peter Attia, who began talking about the contempt he had for an obese patient who needed an amputation. He goes on to speak of his realisation that maybe the medical industry have the link between diabetes and obesity wrong. The current thinking might be completely wrong; diabetes could cause obesity instead of obesity causing diabetes. Did you read that? Diabetes could CAUSE obesity. Not the other way around… That means that Obesity is not just a series of poor decisions, but a true medical issue. He got a wake up call in compassion and ends the video in tears asking for forgiveness from the woman who he was so callously contemptuous of earlier in his career.

I was struck by this doctors honesty, and reminded of the comments I see sometimes in some private facebook groups of Personal Trainers. “Why don’t they just exercise?”, “Why are they so lazy?”, “If they didn’t let themselves get like that in the first place they wouldn’t… blah blah blah…”

Many of the very people who are supposed to help those struggling with weight issues have no idea that their very contempt is a big part of the problem. This contempt from others echoes the sense of self-contempt, self-loathing, and shame that many people who struggle with their weight feel on a daily basis.

I remember reading about a study on relationships, (in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink) that said the defining factor in determining whether a relationship was going to last or not was if there was contempt present. The relationship was pretty much doomed if one partner showed even the slightest contempt for the other. Imagine how bad that is for our insides if we are contemptuous, and loathing of ourselves! Imagine how bad it is for the relationship with a caregiver if there is any form of contempt in there.

Of course, not all people are like this, and many PT’s and coaches who work in weight loss have experienced these struggles themselves and come from a place of heart-felt love and compassion.


Biggest Loser Shaming

This paradigm  fat = shameful creates the very problem it is trying to solve. The more fat is shamed in shows like the Biggest Loser the more it feeds the self-loathing of the fat person watching it. They get the voyeuristic joy of watching the contestants change, and be tortured, but it reinforces the belief  “I’m a loser because I’m fat” & “I’ll only be successful, loveable when I’m slim and good looking.”

When someone feels like they’re a loser they will comfort eat with double force. The first conscious drive to eat to suppress and escape from the pain of feeling like a loser, and then the deeply unconscious drive to REMAIN OVERWEIGHT as a protection mechanism from the harsh, mean world. To remain invisible; safe in the “known world” of being fat, and not venture into the world of weight-loss where you get actively shamed by “harden-the-f#ck-up” style PTs.

There is also the unrealistic expectations set up by these types of shows that follow the fat-hopeless, thin-successful type of character arc. They talk about pulling “big numbers” and dropping 2-5kgs on the show per week, which is completely unrealistic for the average person outside of the confines of a television show. Without mentioning that nearly all contestants regain their weight once the show is over…

When the regular person fails to achieve these kinds of results it reinforces the idea that they themselves are the failure, rather than acknowledging that success under those terms was never possible.

Within the current paradigm you are playing to LOSE!

The fact is that the system is fundamentally flawed and failing the people.


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Self-Compassion is the way out.

The path that leads to success is teaching people how to become self-compassionate, how to see their current weight for what it is, a genuine protection mechanism, to learn to love and be grateful for their bodies as they are now, and how to shift that gradually through self-loving kindness, encouragement and support.  Studies show that those who practice self-compassion eat less than those who are mentally steeped in self-loathing.

When you do that the persons inner drive to be their best will drive them intrinsically to begin to look after themselves because they feel like they are worthy and deserving of love and nourishment, mind, body and soul…. rather than punishing themselves to be thin so that they can become worthy.


Vulnerability & courage for transformational change.

Another two fantastic TED talks are Brene Browns work on vulnerability and shame. She posits that vulnerability is the key to love, and all human growth, joy and creativity. It takes the courage to be vulnerable and open to achieve any kind of lasting change. One cannot change from a place of stuckness and fear. Contempt creates this kind of stuckness, self-loathing and fear, Compassion creates the space for vulnerability, courage, introspection, realisation and transformational change.


Body-love & Self-love campaigns.

There is a new-wave of talk about self-love, coming from wellness and health coaches like myself who inherently know that compassion is the key to change. New media is also taking up the challenge, and you see Real Beauty & Beautiful At Any Size type of campaigns from Dove and Cosmopolitan Magazine. These campaigns are a good start, but are a long way from a tipping point of social consciousness. The Latest “Embrace” documentary from Taryn Brumfitt is a huge step forward in this awareness. (Go Taryn!)


And it’s not contradictory to having weight loss success.

You might think that loving your body as it is would prevent you from losing weight, make you complacent and happy with yourself as you are. Yes and no, it does give you permission to be who you are right now, AND then if you’d like to shift, to make that shift from a place of self-love, from a place of worthiness, rather than punishment.

I’d love to share a post from one of my current participants on my Goddess Body Quest program, the lovely Ness, who has had realisation after realisation and is making massive internal shifts, she really gets it now, and it is showing!

I just need to write this…..

I have been struggling with my weight and feeling of not being good enough for as long as I can remember, most of my life, certainly as a teenager and adult.

This has changed for me now. I have always taken 2 steps fwd and then 1 back, but over the past 3 months I have had more awakenings and realisations and learnings than I thought possible.

I have not lost weight in these 3 months but I have lost A LOT if not ALL of my emotional baggage that has kept me fat.

I just sent part of this message to my best friend…..(excuse the French!)

“This really is SOOOOO not about the weight. I TOTALLY get that now. All the fucking weight we have carried around is nothing other than the self-loathing-protecting shit suit that doesn’t serve us at all! Well!! I can’t wait to shed mine. I don’t need it anymore! I am so happy to be loving my body and myself so much that I can do this.

I am typing this to offer hope to everyone who might be struggling, this IS possible. It doesn’t matter how many times we “fall off the wagon” so long as we get back on with LOVE and SELF-LOVE as the inspiration NOT guilt and self-loathing. In time, just like muscles at the gym, we get stronger and wiser each time we try.

I know that I will NEVER be the same again.

I am now sitting back and letting all my hard work kick in without me trying!!

If that makes sense…..ready for my fat suit to fall off…..I am thinking it will be gone by the end of the year. (Of course I will be eating well and exercising to help with this) but it is more about that, it’s about me realising (again) and more fully that I can do this, I don’t need my fat suit to protect me anymore and I don’t need food to make me happy.

Once the weight has been dropped, lying in a fatty puddle on the floor that I will happily kick to curb, it will be a great measuring stick for me if the weight ever starts to creep back on, I’ll stop and ask myself, why do I feel I am not worthy? Why aren’t I loving myself enough. I’ll then give myself a huge hug and write myself a love letter to remind myself of the healing and transformation and all will be sweet with the world!!!

Love to you all, Ness


Update- 1/8/13 – I LOVE that science is now proving my point in this article. Fat shaming does not contribute to motivating the obese, but in fact contributes to the problem. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/fat-shaming-actually-increases-risk-becoming-or-staying-obese-new-8C10751491

If you’d like to join me on the Quest to find your inner Goddess and create your breathtaking body through a journey of self-loving kindness, then keep your eyes peeled  for my upcoming emails, I’m opening up a new intake in the next couple of weeks. Or check out the course here: goddessbodyquest.com

Comments (4)

  1. It's so true Kylie. When I started talking about my excess body fat as just "inflammation" it was a MASSIVE change in perspective. As soon as you start thinking it's "just inflammation" – it's pretty hard to create an insult around that. Hey you Fat Fatty?>> or Hey you Inflammed, Inflammer. Then it allows you to start examining the true cause of the extra weight without the negative connotation and judgement that gets us so off track.

    • Love that reframe Bianca, You're one of the lovely ones I was talking about, who realyl get it, and because of that, your clients get it too, and get real lasting results. Yep, focus on the underlying issues and skip the judgement. 🙂

    • My pleasure Tammy-Lynne, this article's been brewing in my head for a while… Glad it resonated with you, thanks so much for your comment.

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