Fat-shaming may curb obesity, bioethicist says
Unhappy with the slow pace of public health efforts to curb America’s stubborn obesity epidemic, a prominent bioethicist is proposing a new push for what he says is an “edgier strategy” to promote weight loss: ginning up social stigma.
Daniel Callahan, a senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, put out a new paper this week calling for a renewed emphasis on social pressure against heavy people -- what some may call fat-shaming -- including public posters that would pose questions like this:
“If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?”
Obligatory image of fat person from behind (so as to protect their identity - don't want to fat-shame them, or do you?)
Callahan outlined a strategy that applauds efforts to boost education, promote public health awareness of obesity and curb marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
But, he added, those plans could do with a dose of shame if there’s any hope of repairing a nation where more than a third of adults and 17 percent of kids are obese.
“Safe and slow incrementalism that strives never to stigmatize obesity has not and cannot do the necessary work,” wrote Callahan in a Hastings Center Report from the nonprofit bioethics think tank.
Weight-acceptance advocates and doctors who treat obesity reacted swiftly to the plan proposed by Callahan, a trim 82-year-old.
“For him to argue that we need more stigma, I don’t know what world he’s living in,” said Deb Burgard, a California psychologist specializing in eating disorders and a member of the advisory board for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.
“He must not have any contact with actual free-range fat people,” she added.
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