In Re: Fat Shaming

Eve Penman:  Hi, it's Eve Penman.  I just wanted to first quickly say Thank You to the responses I received on my video regarding 15-dollar an hour minimum wage.  I wanted to talk a few moments about my thoughts and questions on a new study that's coming out that will be in Obesity Journal regarding fat shaming and how fat shaming does not motivate obese people to lose weight.

I have a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts and questions on this.  I guess one of my questions, and I've been kind of worried about approaching this topic, is I feel, ironically enough, that I'm going to be thin shamed for talking about fat shaming because I look -- I'm sure I look like somebody who should not be talking about fat shaming at all. So I find that concept kind of funny.  

When it comes to this study, it's an observational study, it's not cause and effect, so I feel it's not empirical; it's just something that puts the topic out there.  But when I look at the study, test subjects were aged 50 and older, and it was based on if they felt they were discriminated or shamed, if they felt it.  So I question what it was that happened to them that made them feel this way.  I haven't read the text of the study itself.  I've only read a couple of articles online referring to it, so I don't know precisely what is within the study.  But I do want -- I'm curious, what is that was done to these people that makes them feel they were shamed.  Were they told: Get out of here, we're not serving you, you're fat, go away?

I'm curious, what is it that makes someone believe that they are being shamed?  Simply because when I come from the field I come from in law, I have noticed that there are claims made of discrimination and a lot of times it is based on feelings.  It's not to say people are wrong to make those claims, it is just that it is based on feelings, subjective evidence; it's what I feel, it's what I feel.  Well, it's what a person feels, there's no objective evidence.  I mean if there's objective evidence that's one thing, but when it's just a feeling I don't know how to tell if somebody's truly being shamed or it's just maybe them being a little thin skinned.  

Because with the idea of fat shaming, the opposite end is thin shaming and that's where I kind of come from at this point in my life.  I've been heavier to where I'm not happy.  I may not have been obese; I was in the overweight indexes headed towards obese once, but I changed it.  I was miserable.  I was miserable enough to not want to do that anymore, so I changed my habits.

And, so, I just know what it's like to be miserable, and I know what it's like to also not enjoy being called thin or skinny, or comments made to you because you choose to eat healthy.  You know, I've had people say it:  Oh, look at you, you're eating so healthy.  So?  Sorry.  You know, I mean, goodness gracious.  What is it -- why is it anyone's business what I'm eating or what anyone else is eating, it's really not, but we all like to make our comments, I know that.

Anyway, when it comes to shaming, to me, it's not just to me but the definition of shaming is that it's a feeling of humiliation or distress.  So it's a feeling, it's subjective, it's in the mind; and it's something that, for myself, I feel I can't stop someone from saying something about myself.  It's a free country, in so many respects, but I can't stop someone from saying or thinking something behind my back to another person, whatever.  I can't do anything about that; I accept that.  What I can do though is not let it affect me, and that's something I really work at doing; it's being able to ignore something.  

I appreciate Matt Forney's advice on it in his book Trolling For a Living from his essay You're Damn Right I'm Shaming You.  His passage says, "If you're being shamed, take a step back and ask whether you deserve it.  If not, tell the shamer to go fuck themselves.  If yes, stop behaving shamefully.  You're not doing anyone a favor, least of all yourself, when you persist in being a loser."  I mean that's it, point blank.  You either ignore it or you face it and you move on -- you address it and you do something about it.  

Now, when it comes to ignoring it, I have two recommendations on books that I use every day in my mind to help me overcome the same struggles of not taking things personally.  The first book I recommend is The Four Agreements, a Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by don Miguel Ruiz.  Again, all about not taking things personally, and I'm someone who has always taken things personally so this has been good; a very good tool for me.  

The other book that's been very helpful is How To Stop Being Teased and Bullied Without Really Trying by Dr. Izzy Kalman.  This one is really, really good.  It helped me to understand the psychology and mindset of people who tease, how to ignore it, how to overcome it, how to confront it, that's a big part.  It's not enough to just shrink away and say, "Oh, they're teasing me."  Well, do you know for a fact they're teasing you?  Did you confront them and go, "What are you saying about me?  I heard you saying this."  

Sometimes, believe it or not in this world, there are a lot of misunderstandings between human beings.  Sometimes life is nothing more than a Three's Company episode; everyone is just having misunderstandings, because everyone's assuming something about someone else and they're all taking it personally, because their egos are getting in the way.  I shit you not.  I've seen it too much, it just -- it reels my mind.  

So that's why I recommend these two books by Dr. Izzy Kalman and don Miguel Ruiz as good working tools to help people with the understanding of, hey, I just can't take stuff personally that people are saying.  And of course Matt Forney's book, Trolling For a Living; a lot of great information on just kind of sucking stuff up sometimes and what you’ve got to do to confront it and move on and make yourself the person you want to be in spite of what anybody else is saying, because that's really what matters:  Doing what you have to do for you in spite of what anyone else says.  

So, those are my thoughts on shaming. I'd like to hear what other people have to say; if they've been shamed, felt shamed, if they enjoy shaming, if they get response -- if they've actually seen positive responses when they believe they've shamed someone.  I know it happens.  I've heard stories from people who said they felt shamed, but then they came back stronger, and they even got apologies later on from people when they came back.  So I know it's not always a negative impact and I'd like to hear the opposite end besides what just mainstream media feeds us.  So, thanks again.  Bye.

Transcripts by Eve