It’s almost never helpful to shame people. It’s completely counterproductive, in fact.
Still, I’m going to make an exception here: Shame on you, Bill Maher!
Your little screed Friday in support of fat-shaming didn’t help a single person lose a single ounce. It no doubt made some overweight folks feel sad or mad, and it undoubtedly helped smug jerks who are naturally slim feel superior.
Bill Maher: Was that your goal?
Maher is the host of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and on Friday he said, “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback.”
It’s undoubtedly true that Americans are bigger people now than they were a couple of generations ago. Up for debate is why people are heavier. Are the reasons largely under or out of their control? The science is confusing and contradictory. I could easily list here citations for dozens of studies that have tried to make sense of the subject.
- We changed zoning codes over the last few decades, forcing more people to drive instead of walk
- We changed parenting expectations and now parents are obligated to drive their children everywhere instead of letting them walk because it’s “safer”
- We decided to use our tax dollars to heavily subsidize the ingredients that go into junk and fast food but not fresh produce
- We decided everyone should work long hours with little opportunity to get outside and engage in exercise
- We changed our food supply in radical ways, moving away from home-cooked food toward stuff full of additives made in a factory. We had to do this, because we decided we should rearrange society so that few families could afford to have one parent stay home, keep house and cook nourishing meals for the family.
We have done studies that show that once someone has gained weight and managed to lose it, their chances of keeping it off long-term are comparable to the chances of a heroin addict staying clean. After weight loss, the metabolism slows, and you can never again consume as much as someone else with your build and height who is of normal weight. If you do, you can expect to gain back everything you lost and a little bit more. If you’re really determined, you may be able to manage it for a long time by feeling hungry much of the time. But there is a very, very strong biological drive to eat when we are hungry.
You show me an overweight person and I’ll show you someone who has been fat-shamed but is, oddly, still fat. We already have all the motivation you can imagine, Bill Maher. We are inundated daily with the message that we would look better, feel better, live longer, appear more acceptable to hiring managers, etc. Not all those things are even true, Bill, yet you really think a bit of fat shaming is what would finally turn me into a size 8?
Take Oprah Winfrey. Is she lazy? Unintelligent? Does she seem unmotivated? Ill-informed? She has enough resources available to her that she could have a live-in crew of cooks, dietitians and personal trainers; and as a TV personality, she surely has felt more pressure to slim down than most of us. And yet she has spent years dazzling us with her beautiful plus-size glory. If Oprah, living her best life, has struggled for years, what chance do the rest of us have?
Most plus-size folks I know go to the gym or engage in some kind of sport or exercise program regularly. Many plus-size folks I know are always trying some kind of diet; sometimes ruining their health by desperately turning to one radical diet after another. They know in their hearts that living on cabbage soup or whatever isn’t a good idea, but they are desperate to keep trying … largely because of people like you, Mr. Maher. Your rudeness helps make people ill.
Oprah was pretty public about her weight loss journeys (thank you, Oprah!) and about the different things she tried. Apparently she didn’t try one last thing, which was for you to insult her to her face about her weight. That surely would have done it.
I’ve personally carried extra weight ever since I became a mother. I’ve managed to lose the weight a handful of times through the years, but it always comes back. So my goal is to be as healthy as I can, understanding that the weight is here to stay. (This fat-ass had black coffee and a smoothie consisting solely of about three cups of raw spinach and two apples blended together this morning, Mr. Maher. What did you have?)
I know almost nothing about you, Mr. Maher. I’ve never seen your show. I had to look you up before I could write this. I can see that you’re thin. Good job, Bill. You’re thin. Thank your genetics. You might as well take pride in your eye color, hair color or skin color. There are, of course, many people who do take great pride in their skin color, and believe they’re superior because of how their particular genetic profile affects their appearance.
We call these folks Nazis. But maybe that’s a little harsh. I prefer the term “Weight Supremacists,” myself.
Hey, readers. When was the last time you were fat-shamed? How did you feel, and did it lead to you immediately slimming down? And does this Bill Maher tale upset you? Tell us your stories and feel free to use the new hashtag #weightsupremacist
About the Author: Michelle Mueller Teheux is Curvicality’s vice president of content. She’s a journalist and former newspaper editor with a passion for opinion pieces. In her spare time, Michelle can be found reading or passing the time on a rural bicycle trail taking in the sights.