Friday, July 26, 2013

The Shame of Shaming

It's amazing but, in this day and age, there are still people who believe we can socially stigmatize our way to a reduction in obesity. Those of us involved in weight loss surgery, and those of us who are dealing with weight issues understand one fact that people who are not intimately involved with weight issues might never come to understand: eating is nothing like smoking or drug use.

It's true that a certain amount of social stigma has been helpful in combating such substance addictions as cigarette smoking and perhaps alcoholism too. However, there is one major and glaringly obvious difference between these addictions and chronic overeating -- you can theoretically stop overeating, but you can't stop eating entirely. Moreover, without treatment, the urges only get stronger as you lose weight. No surprise then that a new study published in the journal, PLoS ONE, shows that the more obese people feel discriminated against for their weight, the more likely they are to remain obese.

The reason treatments like sleeve gastrectomy surgery have become necessary is that overeating might be similar to an addiction, but it simply can't be dealt with in the same way. We're all "addicted" to food in the sense that we need it to live and our body is constantly driving us to eat. What appears to be happening is that overweight people seem to have more persistent, harder to resist signals being sent to them.

Even here in looks-conscious Los Angeles, even the most well-off, and well-motivated, obese celebrity with access to the best trainers and nutritionists in the world might find weight loss next to impossible without a lap band in Beverly Hills. Clearly, then, shaming and discrimination is not what obese people need to help them lose weight. Most of them have plenty of that already. What overweight people need to lose weight is pretty simple: help.

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