Shame the fat into losing weight? Bioethicist thinks it can work

By: Aaron Dimick Email
By: Aaron Dimick Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A prominent bioethicist is diagnosing an extra dose of guilt to get fat people to lose weight.

The shaming advice is coming from the Hastings Center, a bioethics research group in New York.

Daniel Callahan, a senior research scholar there, put out a new paper calling for emphasis on social pressure against heavy people through ad campaigns and education.

But can pushing more of a stigma on the overweight help?

Many in the medical and fitness community say the answer is a big fat no.

“I was told either you lose weight, or you're going to have major health issues,” said Rachel Ouimet of Chippewa Falls.

One year ago, Ouimet began her journey at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire to drop those extra pounds.

“I have 117 pounds off at this point and time,” Ouimet said.

She said the suggestion of adding extra social pressure on heavy people to trim the fat through ad campaigns is alarming.

“Myself, I felt bad enough the way it was. I felt I was shamed. But to shame someone is not the right way to go because they're just going to keep putting more weight on,” Ouimet said.

Diane Dressel, a registered dietician at Mayo Clinic Health System agrees.

“Obesity is a chronic disease so it needs to be treated like any other chronic disease in the medical field. It's no different than someone with heart disease; would we shame our heart patients?” Dressel said.

She said Mayo takes a no-shame approach.

And in fact, shaming patients can lead to them dropping out of a weight loss program.

“When people feel ashamed, they start hiding what they eat, closet eaters, and you can't treat a problem if you're not out there confronting it and being honest with it,” Dressel said.

The weight-shedding local mom said giving encouragement to stick to weight loss goals has more impact than bullying.

“I did it and now I’m going to stay this way. I am not going back,” Ouimet said.

Others in the medical community have suggested putting pressure on food manufacturers and marketers to stop pushing junk food.

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