Study: 'Fat-shaming' more harmful than racism, sexism - KCTV5

Study: 'Fat-shaming' more harmful than racism, sexism

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Startling new results in a study suggest being treated poorly for being overweight may hit people harder than acts of racism or sexism. Startling new results in a study suggest being treated poorly for being overweight may hit people harder than acts of racism or sexism.
FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -

Startling new results in a study suggest being treated poorly for being overweight may hit people harder than acts of racism or sexism.

There is no question that society says, "thin is in."

From movies to magazines, people everywhere are bombarded with what perfection is supposed to look like, making those who are overweight a punchline.

After what some would consider a hate-fueled rant on national TV this month, the call went out for Charles Barkley to apologize.

Barkley has been getting heat from the city of San Antonio, specifically its female population, for saying, on live TV, that the city's women were a "gold mine for Weight Watchers."

But Barkley is not alone. Just peruse the internet for a few minutes, and thousands of jokes and memes will appear - all directed at people who are overweight.

A new study suggests those comments, looks and jokes could actually be more detrimental to a person's psyche than if they were a victim of racism or sexism.

The study from the Florida State University College of Medicine says it could be because weight is seen by many as something that's easily controlled, whereas race and sex are not.

"I think that because it is seen as a choice and it potentially says something about their personality, people feel more comfortable doing it," said Hailee Bland-Walsh, a personal trainer.

Bland-Walsh owns City Gym in Waldo and has seen her fair share of victims of so-called "fat shaming."

"I think society associates laziness with someone who's overweight. They think it is a choice, and I know just from a science perspective it is so much more than that. Unfortunately, I think people look for the weak link. They think it is a personality trait they can pick on, then they kind of go after that," she said.

The study followed 6,000 people and said those who felt picked on or treated unfairly because of their weight showed poor subjective health, greater disease burden, lower life satisfaction and greater loneliness than their counterparts, who were targeted based on their race or sex.

This does not come as a surprise to some therapists.

"There is nothing more stressful to the human mind than being shunned," said Mark McGonigle, a social worker in Waldo.

McGonigle says being excluded or feeling excluded is one of the worst feelings a person can endure.

"Our whole brain is designed to be included in the community. We feel very unsafe and incredibly stressed out when we're excluded," he said.

And being excluded appears to be something those who are overweight continue to battle.

Another study released this week out of Arizona State University says overweight young people have fewer friends because their skinnier peers are rejecting them.

And considering the country as a whole is struggling with its weight, it is happening more and more frequently.

"The people I work with who struggle with body image and maybe they are overweight will tell me, 'I'm treated like a second-class citizen, and I know it's because of my weight.' It is wrong," McGonigle said.

KCTV5 News asked and no one was able to answer the question of why it seems so many people think it is OK to pick on or make jokes about those who are overweight.

Bland-Walsh suggests everyone needs to start with a little empathy.

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