Secrets From the Eating Lab part 11
Monday, February 24, 2020
PART 4 – YOUR WEIGHT IS NOT REALLY THE POINT
Chapter 11: WHY TO STOP OBSESSING AND BE OKAY WITH YOUR BODY
This chapter starts out discussing the weight stigma or discrimination that obese people experience. However, there are far reaching consequences of weight stigma:
*lost educational opportunities
* lost employment opportunities
* poor medical treatment
*possibly unfair jury treatment – no official studies have been done but a preliminary one seems to suggest some bias toward obese people when they serve jury duty.
Weight Stigma -> there are some negative stereotypes about obesity, people are thought of as being lazy, lacking self-control, being less conscientious than thin people. There is no truth to these stereotypes, but they do exist.
Often people do not admit to holding these beliefs and may not even show they have them outwardly, but these prejudices can be observed in brain activity. A study was done by having people watch a video of obese people experiencing pain. Brain activity was measured and there was less neural activity in the area of the brain that indicates an emotional response.
So, while we may not be aware of our prejudices it may still exist. (My note- quite interesting as I am aware of my response in my thinking in some incidences even though I may not express what I am thinking – I need to work on that)
DISCRIMINATION-> unfair treatment based on stereotypes or stigma
Educational discrimination – if two applicants are applying and need to have a face to face interview, often weight is a decision factor in who gets accepted.
Employment discrimination-> often occurs during the hiring phase due to the expectation of health problems that may arise that could interfere with doing the job properly. If one is hired, the pay may be less than a thin person doing the same job and they may be overlooked for promotions.
The Effects of Everyday Weight Stigma
Some of the things obese people have to deal with on a day to day basis are nasty comments (even from strangers), being stared at, and being subject to negative experiences. 80% of obese people use humor to respond to stigma experiences even though it really is not a humorous situation.
It does not help that sometimes people are insensitive and may offer unsolicited advice to lose weight, even if they are a stranger to that person. In fact, it has been noted that some have experienced a stranger removing items from their shopping cart. (MY comment – I cannot imagine someone being so rude.)
And the Media does not help decrease the weight stigma with the Make America “Healthier” campaign. (My note – I must have missed one as I do not recall this, but then I do not have television so I do not see the ads. On you tube; I have a tendency to skip over the ads.)
However, stigmatizing them DOES NOT encourage them to diet; rather it has the opposite effect. Not does it motivate them to exercise, rather it makes them even more uncomfortable to go to the gym.
Weight Stigma can lead to physiological stress response, that is, an increased spike in cortisol. This was shown to be true in a study where overweight and obese participants were shown videos of how overweight people are typically portrayed in tv shows, comedy acts, and movies: struggling to exercise, overeating, being laughed at, etc. “Since this is how obese people are typically portrayed in the media (if they are portrayed at all), it’s fair to conclude that as seemingly harmless an act as watching television can cause this type of stress response for obese people. And don’t forget that stress can cause weight gain.” ( p. 165)
“Weight stigma does not seen to be going away. Unlike other stigmatized people, prejudice seems to decrease the more others are in contact with members of that group. But the heavier we become, the less tolerant we are. Even obese people buy into the negative stereotype about obesity, internalizing the anti-fat attitudes that are common in our culture. It is hard to rise up against your tormentors if you believe them.” (p. 165- 166)
Thinking of excess weight as the enemy, hurts us all, whether we have extra weight or not. The media portrays obesity as a crisis and makes all of us view extra pounds as a medical crisis. Diet plans abound and cause us to think there is a perfect diet out there for us to follow if we would just make an effort. Then, we feel bad when we cannot stay with the plan and lose that promised weight. Often, we’ll tend to judge others even more harshly, if they, too, cannot lose weight and keep it off.
And then we have that ‘ideal body type and ideal weight’ being suggested, which are often unattainable for the majority. No wonder we become obsessed with feeling the need to lose weight and become thinner.
How do we change this situation and end weight stigma? First, take some pressure of yourself and do not become so obsessed with your weight – in doing so, perhaps then you won’t be so concerned about any one else’s weight.
Be Okay With Your Body
Just be okay with your body. You don’t have to LOVE it. Women, more than men, are told they need to love their bodies and that if often not the right advice to give to women. And, it is just not necessary.
Rather than having the goal of loving your body, just respect your body, appreciate your body and just be okay with your body.
Being okay with your body does not mean it is a free-for-all. You still ought to care for yourself by eating right, have proper portions, and exercise.
Historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg found that journals in the 1890s showed that young women were wanting to make self-improvements in their character by being kinder and more concerned for others, getting better grades in school, etc. But 100 years later, journals showed that young women were more concerned about their physical appearance and the way to achieve that was to buy things.
Many industries found a way to tap into this: gym memberships, exercise equipment, work-out plans = fitness fads (some more effective than others): recall Bowflex, TaeBo, The Thighmaster? While exercise may do many good things for our bodies, it can never change our build, bone structure, genetic limits on how much muscle we may have. If we buy into these plans, we get frustrated with ourselves and beat ourselves up for not getting those promised results. We get into that vicious cycle and buy the next new-and-great fad to change our body.
We ought not to define ourselves by out outward appearance. We need to stop focusing on the outside and learn to take care of ourselves in a sensible manner. Then and only then can we transfer that to other people. Then, as a whole group, we’d all be better off, both physically and mentally.
The next chapter will deal with exercise.