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?"
The article does inject a note of sanity, quoting Dr. Tom Inge, an expert in childhood obesity at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Callahan is a former smoker who figures that since he was shamed out of smoking, the same approach would work for weight. It is too bad that he is being given any voice at all about this since the two are not comparable.
"No amount of teasing, probing questions about what they wish they could do, or medications seem to help," Inge said. "So if one is proposing to help them by more stigmatization, that would seem at once both antithetical and unethical."
You either smoke or you do not. There is no minimum amount of tobacco that you have to consume to live.
On the other hand, you do have to eat to live. Granted, if you eat too much you become overweight, but you cannot just quit eating.
Also, once you become overweight, it is very difficult to lose the weight. You are fighting your body. Your metabolism slows, trying to recover the lost calories. Take two people who weigh the same. The first used to weigh more but lost weight. The second has always weighed that amount. The first person has to consume fewer calories than the second to keep from gaining the weight back. At the same time, the first person's body is sending signals, calling for more calories.
Think about that. If you want to lose weight then you have to go hungry, every day for the rest of your life.
Yes, if you shame people enough then they might prefer constant hunger to weighing more but what you are really doing is inducing eating disorders. What else can you call it when someone is constantly hungry but ashamed to eat?
This approach carries a big risk of causing eating disorders among people, especially women, who do not need to lose weight.
Around 30 years ago I shared an office with someone who had an eating disorder. I pointed this out to her and she agreed that she had some of the characteristics of an anorexic but insisted that this did not apply to her because she wasn't thin, she was fat. Trust me, she was not fat.
So the Today Show is repeating the advice from this quack - develop an eating disorder or face increased social stigma.