It's true, if you think about it. There is nothing more prevalent than shame directed at and amongst the overweight - there's a full-front assault telling everyone, especially women, that it is not ok to look the way that you do, and that you would be happier if you were smaller, thinner, blonder - the list goes on. This is doubly unfortunate because not only does this kind of shame lead to self-loathing and negative thinking, a new study shows that this negative thinking undermines your ability to get and stay healthy.
There's an excellent article from the "Science of Willpower" blog at Psychology Today magazine on this exact topic. It's short, to-the point, and well worth a read here.
The short and sweet of it is this - as the president for the Association for Size Diversity and Health put it, "if shame worked, there'd be no fat people."
The above-mentioned study showed that, by focusing on changing the self-hate and thought processes involved with overweight people over a 12-month period:
"The program aimed to dismantle the usual reasons people diet: because they hate the way they look, because they are ashamed of their bodies, or because they want the approval of others. Instead, the women were encouraged to focus on creating health, strength, and well-being."
In other words, the study didn't really work on the "eat this, don't eat that" aspect of health and nutrition - they worked on the shame, negative self-talk, and changing the idea that each woman in the study could not be happy unless they looked a certain way. The result, not surprisingly, is that when participants were able to get past the self-hate, their behaviors changed on their own - less binge eating, more self control, etc.
The most salient point for us at CrossFit Elevation is the study's primary focus being on creating health, strength, and well-being by focusing on looking at who you are with compassion and empathy, not negativity. We believe that the first step to a true transformation to long-term, sustainable health is learning to appreciate your body for what it is, what it does, and what it is and can become capable of. We call it connecting with the inner athlete, but you can think of it however you want- positive body image, total well-being, whatever. It's less about the relationship you have with the body that you see in the mirror and more about the relationship you have with yourself. Get that right, and everything else starts to fall into place.
Shame fails - compassion doesn't.
Here's a great video from our friends at Again Faster that is along those lines: