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Could You Be Fat – Shamed Into Losing Weight?

Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images

A very well respected bioethicist, Daniel Callahan, is proposing an “edgier strategy” to combat this country’s obesity problem. He is quick to point out that a similar strategy worked very well to discourage cigarette smokers, but it does have a lot if detractors as well. The strategy is being called fat-shaming.

Callahan supports education and the reduction of marketing unhealthy foods to children, but he is also proposing a greater emphasis on social pressure against people who are overweight. He goes as far as to suggest posting posters featuring pictures of overweight adults with slogans that might read “If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way you look?” The former smoker argues that the public shaming of people who smoked cigarettes caused a dramatic drop in people who used tobacco products. “The force of being shamed and beat upon socially was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health.” he elaborates. “The campaign to stigmatize smoking was a great success, turning what had been considered simply a bad habit into reprehensible behavior. That same pressure could be applied to overweight people, perhaps leading to increased efforts by people to eat right, exercise — and actually succeed in losing weight.”

You can imagine the uproar from other bioethicists, eating disorder experts and overweight persons. They argue that plenty of stigmas against the overweight already exist. They worry that fat-shaming will lead to out and out discrimination.

What do you think? Is fat-shaming a horrible, cruel idea or do you think it might be worth a try to curb the obesity epidemic in this country among adults and children?


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