After US talkshow host Bill Maher called for fat shaming to “make a comeback”, fellow host James Corden’s impassioned response won widespread support online.
“It’s proven that fat shaming only does one thing,” he said. “It makes people feel ashamed and shame leads to depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour – self-destructive behaviour like overeating.”
“If making fun of fat people made them lose weight, there’d be no fat kids in schools.”
But does Maher have a point? Almost two thirds of adults in England were overweight or obese in 2017. The NHS recorded 10,660 hospital admissions in 2017/18 where obesity was the primary diagnosis.
In the US, the situation is starker still. More than 70% of adults over 20 are overweight or obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
On Twitter, the former professional baseball player, Kevin Youkilis, claimed he owed his “whole entire career” to fat shaming, having initially been overlooked by scouts because of his weight.
That experience, though, is atypical, says Jane Ogden, a professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey.
“Shaming is the wrong way forward,” she told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Monday.
“All of the evidence is that fat shaming just makes people feel worse. It lowers their self-esteem. It makes them feel depressed and anxious and as a result of that what they then do is self-destructive.”
A study by behavioural scientists at University College London found rather than encouraging people to lose weight, fat shaming led people to put on more weight. Read more