Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shaming NEVER Promotes Health.

Shaming a person NEVER promotes health. Or, anything good.

So why do people keep shaming others to "help" them lose weight?

You probably have heard about Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's campaign to fight obesity (overview here and discussion here.) I was outraged from the start of this campaign because my large clients tell me their experiences in our world where shame has led them to promote self hate not health.

Now, Disney has thrown in its influence, money, and cartoonists to promote body shame and bullying. They just started this Habit Heroes online campaign and interactive Epcot exhibit to fight obesity. I am close to tears reading what this campaign has to offer although thankful that blogger Yoni Feedhoff brought it to my attention. The eye-opening post can be found here. This is just another campaign showing the skinny heroes saving those dumb enough to be fat (please read my pissed off sarcasm).

There is no way this campaign or any like it will promote long term health. Even more, those who are not large can be harmed by this message too. They are taught skinny people are better, stronger, and automatically healthy. These campaigns lay the foundation for bullying and a negative relationship with food.

Those in the fight against obesity often admit, although a tough pill to swallow, maybe shaming is okay because it will get people to make changes. I want to provide some insight as to why this does not work.
What shaming leads to:
  • not wanting to move one's body because one wants to hide it (thus less exercise)
  • not wanting to fuel one's body in a way that feels good during and after eating (thus less fruit, veggie consumption and eating more forbidden foods)
  • more negative self talk and then more depression
  • weight gain
After practicing as a dietitian for a few years, I witnessed smart, strong, beautiful, brave large people trying to attain health although the world kept calling them fat, lazy, and stupid.  Such a challenging task! Imagine trying to work toward health when the world keeps telling you that you are too stupid to realize something is "wrong" with you.

After consulting with experienced colleagues and finishing a master's degree in counseling, I have learned empowerment promotes health. Empowering interactions help people find intrinsic motivation to encourage a healthy life.

What empowerment leads to:
  • moving one's body more because one enjoys it and it feels good (thus more exercise)
  • wanting one's body to feel strong and able to do this movement; also wanting food to make the body feel good during and after eating (thus more fruits, veggies; "forbidden" foods eaten with less frequency)
  • more positive self talk and less depression
  • healthy bodies and minds
I am now off to configure a way to prevent my almost 4-year-old from experiencing this Disney campaign. I want her to love her body and want to promote health; I also want her to appreciate health comes in all shapes and sizes. I will teach her all bodies deserve love and respect. Although now, Disney just made my job so much tougher.


Trina Robertson, MS, RD said...

Julie, thank you for sharing the web game and your opinion. I would greatly appreciate it if you would post a link to your blog post on this Child Nutrition LinkedIn group. I will approve your post and I know it will be received since we have recently been discussing how to help fight childhood obesity. I will post it on your behalf if you prefer:

Julie Duffy Dillon said...

Hi Trina! Thanks for the comments and would love for you to pass it on. Also, I will join the group. I appreciate the connection :-)

Joe Bailey said...

Habit Heroes as many other Disney based characters are hard on our children. I wish I could avoid all things (shows, books, movies, advertisements) that can injure a child's perception of body image. The ideal that girls and boys are faced with from what they learn from movies and so forth can negatively effect them as they go into adulthood. My family relationships professor emphasized this point in a few of her lectures. After which I told my husband that there was going to be no princess-y, idealistic, Disney movies or tv shows allowed for our daughter. I know this is an extreme form of sheltering, but with all the other obstacles she will have to face, I would rather try my best to emphasize that she is not supposed to look like a character from a show, but instead she is beautiful absolutely no matter what.

Julie Duffy Dillon said...

Thanks for your comment Joe and I have had a similar desire to "shelter" my child. It seems so strange that we need to protect our children from those who are making things for them yet they are not looking out for them...just trying to get a buck. I have found I can't fight all the princess-y culture (exhaustion otherwise!) yet I am sure to not promote it and always have alternatives.

Disney getting into food in such a harmful way is a painful blow for me. This is going to be tough to shield from our children.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr