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Fat Denial: When Self-Help Mantras Can Backfire

Self-help mantras may be backfiring in instances when they deny the real health risks that come with weight gain/obesity. We need to confront the realities of what it means to be fat to effectively battle the bulge, as they say. Read on. Read More

Not this again!

Here you go, from another blog on this very site:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/eating-mindfully/201401/do-diets-work

The highlights:

1. Diets DO NOT WORK. Period. People DO NOT lose significant weight from dieting on the long term. The article you link to says: "If you’re overweight or obese, you should aim to be 5 to 10 percent less than you are today. Many studies have shown that a 5 to 10 percent weight reduction can impart benefit." Well, tough luck, because this is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN with a diet. Only a complete change of lifestyle, 24/7/365 forever, can result in that kind of significant weight loss on the long term.

2. Diets DO NOT IMPROVE HEALTH. Losing weight has no significant positive impact on health. (Moreover, yo-yo dieting has been shown to be WORSE for the health than stable obesity, and yo-yo dieting is a direct (and unavoidable - see above) consequence of, well, dieting!)

3. What DOES make a difference health-wise is physical activity, regardless of weight - something which the article you link to also points out: "“You’re not doomed if you don’t lose weight,” March said. “In this study, they didn’t take exercise and other habits into consideration. We’ve known for a long time that someone who is physically fit is healthier than someone who is not, no matter what weight they are.”"

May I repeat that last sentence, with emphasis? "We’ve known for a long time that someone who is physically fit is healthier than someone who is not, no matter what weight they are."

So can we PLEASE put the "Lose weight!" mantra to rest already, and start talking about what REALLY matters, ie. physical activity?

This article irritates me.

This article irritates me. The reason it irritates me is that it criminalizes the symptoms while not addressing how to cure the disease. I highly doubt the relatively recent phenomenon of self help mantras are increasing obesity and helping it spread. So now we are back into blaming the individual? Why not focus on helping people learn how to eat better (no crash diets, just healthier foods) and exercise more? So it's better to not help people who are considered obese (which, by the way, in some circles means as low as a size 12) feel better about themselves?

And why is it not a good thing that people actually want to watch what they say about overweight people? They are the lepers of society and when we have finally begun to respect people in our society who deviate from cultural beauty standards it's suddenly bad because it's giving them an excuse to go stuff their faces and be fat.

Fat people, by the way, are still the butt of jokes. And I can see that you, Azedeh, are not fat. So it is easy for you to say from where you are that fat people should stop making excuses for feeding their food addictions by (gasp) feeling better about themselves. We are all well aware of the "battle of the bulge" and "fat America" because we hear it all the time. But if you walked a mile in the shoes of someone who is already obese you might find that it is difficult to lose weight. Extremely difficult. I know people who struggle with this on a daily basis and although I'm not obese, I understand that I can't go around pointing fingers at things I really don't understand.

And yes, what you are doing IS shaming. You don't want to think of it that way, but telling a large group of people, making sweeping generalizations about said group and what they do with these mantras for their self-esteem is shaming, pure and simple. You may have a Phd, but clearly you are missing the point.

Yes, Americans need to eat better. But overweight people feeling better about themselves is a good thing. Period. Stop shaming people for feeding their addiction by feeling better about themselves.

The point here is that eating well will happen when eating well is a priority in this country. I read somewhere that if you start to eat better you start to feel better then you begin to eat better overall. Let's focus on improving the diets of Americans, not shaming them for holding onto the one thing they have as the most hated members of society who get called names while walking down the street. And let's face it. No matter the self-help mantras, fat people are still some of the most hated members of society today.

Well said!

"Yes, Americans need to eat better. But overweight people feeling better about themselves is a good thing. Period."

Indeed! It baffles me how most people would consider it horrendous to shame people lost in the depths of smoking, drinking or drug addiction, or suffering from disfiguring health troubles, but it's all okay and even good when it comes to obese people. How DARE obese people look for ways to maintain or, more often than not, regain some semblance of self-esteem!? Every human being deserves to be aware of their self-worth - unless they are obese, apparently.

I should add that attacking

I should add that attacking obese people for not feeling bad about being obese is just making matters worse, not better. When people feel better about themselves they are far more likely to do things to help themselves (i.e., eating better) than people who don't feel good about themselves.

Very true

This is true in general, but it's even more true in the case of a good number of obese people who eat specific foods which release feel-good hormones. These people eat lots of bad food, because that bad food makes them feel PHYSICALLY and MENTALLY better when they are down. Guess what is going to happen when they are shamed?

I should add that attacking

I should add that attacking obese people for not feeling bad about being obese is just making matters worse, not better. When people feel better about themselves they are far more likely to do things to help themselves (i.e., eating better) than people who don't feel good about themselves.

Well, since everyone else seems set on enabling..

I'm a smoker. I go out of my way to avoid smoking around others, but still get nasty looks and snide comments from people upwind.
Even, once, from the morbidly obese with their navels sagging below their groins and back-rolls over the waist of their lycra pants.

My habit, my addiction, is bad for me. I've been told for decades that my addiction will cause me to be a huge drain on healthcare when I get old. that I'm partly responsible for something like $90 billion in healthcare costs annually.
I'm part of the roughly 19% of the (adult) US populace that smokes.

The obese make up roughly 27% of the populace, while the 'merely' overweight make up about 35%.
The low-end estimates for the national cost of obesity is $147 billion annually. Even I'll admit the high-end estimates are i little over the top, though.

Nah- it's not a problem. Y'all should feel good about yourselves- at least you can lay claim to being part of the most expensive and probably wide-spread epidemic ever.

I'm all about people having curves, but the excuses I seem to be reading in other comments here for rolls, bulges and wattle on the scale that we're seeing it.. those excuses border on the ludicrous.

Apples and oranges

"I'm a smoker. I go out of my way to avoid smoking around others, but still get nasty looks and snide comments from people upwind."

What about when you're NOT smoking? Do you get nasty looks then? Do you have people thinking and acting like you're lazy and untrustworthy? Do you have people shaming you constantly for being a smoker even when you're not smoking? Do you have doctors dismiss everything and anything (and I really mean everything and anything!) on the fact that you're smoking, and telling you to "Just stop smoking and you'll be fine"? Are you constantly bombarded with messages from everywhere about how people could endure anything but becoming a smoker? Do you constantly hear jokes about smokers? Do you hear men discussing how gross they felt when a smoker woman showed romantic interest in them? And so on and so forth ad infinitum?

Is it bad for me to be fat? You bet! I don't need anyone else to remind me constantly, because I've known it forever.

Am I most likely going to end up being responsible for unnecessary healthcare costs? Yes, I know it, and no I'm not proud of it. Then again, having doctors dismiss my VERY obvious signs of thyroiditis for 2 entire years, telling me that I just needed to lose weight and I'd stop feeling so tired, certainly didn't help either, so the responsibility is shared to a non-negligeable degree here.

But still, do I deserve to be CONSTANTLY mocked and shamed for even daring to exist as an obese person? NO.

Do I deserve to be told that I shouldn't feel good about myself as a PERSON because ohmygod I'm FAT!?!? Hell no!

Your identity doesn't get reduced to "You're a smoker". People still see the person who happens to be a smoker. But my identity DOES get reduced to the fatty. I'm not allowed to be just another person who happens to be a fatty. I'm not allowed to say, "Hey, I'm a good person, you know!", without people shaming me about being fat.

This is not about offering excuses for being fat. This is about having to offer excuses for daring to EXIST at all as a fatty.

So your comparison to you being a smoker? Apples and oranges, all the way.

Oh, and by the way: you could stop smoking - but it's not exactly recommended that I just stop eating...

Bitter wingeing smokers need to deal with themselves

No idea why I or anyone else should give a fig about what smokers choose to do or not do. If you wish to feel bad about smoking, that's up to you. If you don't, STOP. I'd personally advise you to consider that, because I don't see the point of increasing unhappiness in the world. Nor do I believe it helps smokers either.

Secondly, saying, I'm going through x so should others is not an argument, it's bitterness and its getting real boring.

Thirdly, people's bodies are not the same as objects or habits. Only smokers could be indulged in such a deranged supposition. That you can say things that stupid shows how pampered you really are, despite your moaning. Which is more an indicator of how the mighty have fallen. People used to allow smokers to do anything, now they don't. This is why you're so entitled.

Incidentally, smoking isn't an addiction. That's something you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. And you've been indulged in that nonsense too. Rather than having the guts to stand up for yourselves. Like fat people are trying. Stop being jealous and deal with yourselves.

Stopping smoking is witlessly easy. Only people who feel as sorry for themselves as you could turn that into such a big deal. If you wish to smoke or not fine, but kindly cease your entitled whining, nobody cares.

Delusions of grandeur

There's something genuinely absurd about being lectured on facing reality in a world where people are awash with pills to calm themselves down, cheer themselves up, if they have a little pain etc.,I mean, how hard is it train yourself to calm down? Nothing compared to trying to become an anorexic exercise bulimic.

Give both a go yourself and compare. I have.

If you think all this pill popping for stuff people can easily deal with themselves is bothering you fine, have the guts to take on directly. If not cut the condescending vaingloriousness. I think we'd have noticed if slimmer people were paragons of self control.

Very interesting blog

Very good blog, looking forward to sharing more.

OMG the denial of obesity

OMG the denial of obesity here is astounding! I'm actually shocked! All you whiners about your obesity self-esteem are exactly making the OP's very point! You're NOT HEALTHY! But all you do is attack the messenger!

If you're obese it's because you eat too much. And don't tell me it's a disease, unless you mean a mental disease. Yes, I meant to say that. If obesity is as unhealthy as smoking, drugs and alcohol then where is the mental health community's balls in calling out the obese for their self-destructive over-eating??

I applaud this OP for having the 'guts' to tell it like it is. All you shrieking fat PCer's are weak. And yes I meant to say that too. Normal-weight people see you as weak. You have an addiction just like an alcoholic but you want to be coddled for it.

And as for the 'diets don't work' diatribe -- just stop pigging out. You're fat because of what you eat and how much you eat. And trust me, it isn't pretty to look at your fat or to watch you snort down huge amounts of food.

Better yet, get a clue and don't get fat in the first place. It isn't a disease. It's a choice, and that choice is all yours.

I'm confused.

Are you just a wannabe troll who's really lousy at trolling? Or are you downright delusional and seeing things that are not actually there?

Anonymouse wrote:
You're NOT HEALTHY!

Erm, nobody said otherwise?

Quote:
If you're obese it's because you eat too much. And don't tell me it's a disease, unless you mean a mental disease. Yes, I meant to say that. If obesity is as unhealthy as smoking, drugs and alcohol then where is the mental health community's balls in calling out the obese for their self-destructive over-eating??

Er... You don't seem to be aware that there are SEVERAL eating-related problems recognised as psychiatric diseases? Ever heard of Anorexia Nervosa? Bulimia? Binge Eating? And so on. Some people in the mental health community have been aware of and working on these things for decades. So I really don't understand what your point is.

Quote:
Normal-weight people see you as weak. You have an addiction just like an alcoholic

See, that's where you confuse me. On one hand, you tell us what we very much know already: that normal-weight people see us as weak (as in: weak in willpower). But on the other hand, you tell us what normal-weight people usually ferociously deny: that we have an addiction. So which is it? Do we have an addiction, or not?

Oh, and no, we don't want to be coddled in our addiction. We want to be helped with it. But for that, we first need to be recognised as having an addiction, which pretty much everyone in the medical community is bent on denying.

Quote:
And as for the 'diets don't work' diatribe -- just stop pigging out.

Doesn't work. No, really, go talk to the scientists who put obese people on low-calorie diets, and they'll tell you: even when systematically eating less than normal-weight people, fat people simply don't get thin.

Also: your advice is on the same level as telling Anorexics to "Just eat already!" I would tell you to guess how well that works, but since you seem completely ignorant of the topic, I'll spell it out for you: it doesn't work. At all. Thousands of anorexics die of hunger every year, because they CANNOT make themselves eat, even when they know they HAVE to eat or they'll DIE.

Quote:
And trust me, it isn't pretty to look at your fat or to watch you snort down huge amounts of food.

You do know you don't have to watch anyone else eat, right?

Quote:
Better yet, get a clue and don't get fat in the first place. It isn't a disease. It's a choice, and that choice is all yours.

I was fat by the age of ten because my mother deliberately fattened me. Please tell me again how I had a choice.

Comments on "Fat Denial: When Self-Help Mantras Can Backfire" | Psychology Today

It's difficult to find well-informed people for this topic,
but you seem like you know what you're talking about!

Thanks

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Azadeh Aalai, PhD, is a Tenure-Track, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Queensborough Community College in New York.

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