Demotivation

Would you let your child go on a national weight-loss television show? Jillian Michaels is coming back to The Biggest Loser, and the new season is going to focus on the ever-popular “war on childhood obesity.” Some people are taking issue with this, saying that children should not be fat shamed on national television.

I’ve asked this question before, but I think it’s worth asking again: When has shame motivated you? Sure, maybe you couldn’t fit into your favorite pair of jeans one day, and you felt ashamed, and you dieted for awhile, or stepped up your exercise. I think that kind of self-inflicted shame does motivate us, for a time. But think about external shame for a minute. I want you to imagine being told you are worthless and lazy and stupid. That you are a blight on society. That you are a weak and inadequate excuse for a human being. Motivated yet?

Now imagine you’re 13 years old and hearing that message. Makes you want to get up and do jumping jacks, right? Train for a 5K? Eat only carrot sticks? More than likely, it makes you want to hide in your room and never come out. It might even encourage you to binge eat. I mean, you’ve been told so many times that you’re worthless, what’s the point of trying to change?

Just in case you think the shame is only directed at the children, take heart! Parents are at fault, too. They are bad people for letting their children get fat. Check out this comment, which I found posted on an article about Jillian returning to The Biggest Loser:

fat needs to be shamed! it is becoming a BIG problem. im sick of people being ok with ruining kids who should be fit and healthy there is no such thing as naturally fat it is either a glandular disorder which is used to much as an excuse. or you gave up and let your self go! these kids get a chance to work with one of the best fittness trainers and your worried about how the kids feel! how about help them get healthy fat is a sick and disgusting way to look and live and if you are and feel ashamed its not my fault its not the media its yours because you never put the fork down! get over your selves if you can even do that and get healthy! go ahead and hate me mother of one never lost her body because i worked out! fat people unite and lose some dam fat!

Pretty horrible, right (and I’m not just talking about the grammar)? The sad thing is, this woman isn’t alone in her feelings. A lot of people believe exactly this. And further, they believe that this is just the sort of thing fat people (including children) need to hear in order to change. If we are shamed enough, we’ll eventually wake up and realize how foolish we’ve been all these years, choosing to be fat.

I hope that The Biggest Loser can treat fat children with respect. I hope the show teaches them the importance of a strong heart and lungs. I hope that the focus is not on what they end up looking like at the end of their time on the ranch, but how much energy they have, and how good they feel.

The BFD lesson for today: If you find yourself trying to use shame to motivate – yourself or others – stop. Class dismissed.