Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why Humiliation Doesn't Work

I've written a lot about how people go out of their way to judge and humiliate overweight people. One might wonder why, if it is so embarrassing and awful to be fat in this world, people don't just lose weight to escape the suffering they have to endure. The only people that wonder that are the same people who think the obesity problem can be solved by simple solutions. Their thinking about the issue is extremely shallow so they can't see the obvious.

What is the obvious? Here it is: people who are emotionally dependent on food to the extent that they develop an eating disorder are damaged. You don't make someone who is damaged better by beating up on them more. You damage them even more and send them further into their destructive coping mechanisms and make it all that much harder for them to find the capacity to change.

While certainly there will be a small number of people who can adopt an "I'll show everybody" attitude and pull themselves out of their lifestyle patterns, such people are rare, and it's even rarer that they don't eventually find themselves slowly slipping back to where they were. This is one of the reasons people so frequently regain their excess weight (and more). If you don't deal with the underlying biological and psychological issues, you're usually doomed to fall back into the patterns that made you fat in the first place.

If ostracizing, mocking, and judging fat people worked, we wouldn't have a growing obesity problem. If the world would figure out that hurting hurt people is unproductive and would try and support them, we could get started on dealing with the problem productively. Unfortunately, the trend appears to be to treat fat people more and more punitively rather than to attempt to create circumstances that will support any efforts to improve.