Would Shaming Make Me Lose Weight? Fat Chance!

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Shame on those of us who are fat! That’s what bioethicist Daniel Callahan wants people to do, saying that cigarette smokers were basically shamed into quitting, so it should work for overweight and obese people, too.

Callahan, senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, makes the suggestion in an article for the institute titled “Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic.”

I kinda wanted to read the article, but despite saying there was free access, there wasn’t. However, Callahan was referenced all over the place including in The Huffington Post, where he is quoted as saying:

As a smoker, I was at first criticized for my nasty habit and eventually, along with all the others, sent outside to smoke, and my cigarette taxes were constantly raised. The force of being shamed and beat upon socially was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health… Why is obesity said to be different from smoking?

Only a carefully calibrated effort of public social pressure is likely to awaken them to the reality of their condition. They have been lulled into obliviousness about their problem because they look no different from many others around them.

If you’re overweight, are you oblivious? To be honest, I sometimes am. I was never overweight when I was growing up, so my self-image is still as a size 9 or so. But small children who point their fingers at me and call me “fatty” — not to mention mirrors — spring up to disabuse me of that idea.

I used to be a smoker, but I quit. Something you choose to do is a bit easier to stop than turning off the genes that researchers are saying can make you gain weight. It’s kind of like the Type 2 diabetes thing: genetics plus environment. They say. I say it’s very difficult to avoid Type 2 diabetes if genetics say you’re meant to get it, but that’s another argument.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) say your genes may be the culprit for making your jeans tighter, at least as far as consumption of fat and sugar are concerned. More than 100 inbred strains of mice were studied over a two-year period. They ate a normal diet for eight weeks, followed by a high-fat and –sugar diet for another eight weeks.

The result? Body-fat percentage ranged from no increase to a more than 600% rise, depending on the strain of mouse. They also stopped gaining after about four weeks, suggesting a “set point.”

According to a media release from UCLA, “The results are consistent with the inheritance of body-mass index (BMI) and obesity in humans and emphasize the importance of genetics in controlling obesity.”

So, you say, all you have to do is cut way back on the fats and sugars and you’ll lose weight. And I say?

Dream on, Alice.

The authors only talked about a high-fat and –sugar diet causing weight gain if your genetics dictate it, but that’s what they studied, and researchers can only comment on what they’ve studied.

That’s why you’ll see studies that apply only to people with Type 1 diabetes, when you instinctively know the same thing would be true for those with Type 2: The subjects in the study all had Type 1. Think the DCCT, which proved that tight control could lower the risk of complications. It was a trial that used people with Type 1 only.

I have a friend who taught a class about one of those meal-replacement diets a few years ago. She decided she would join the class and follow the diet herself. She also has a tendency to swim every day and garden extensively.

Now, if you’re consuming meal replacement stuff only, you’re not going to be cramming fat and sugar into your mouth. While the rest of the class was losing four-and-a-half to five pounds a week, my friend was dropping only one or two pounds a week.

Betcha those other people didn’t do laps and plow, plant, weed, or reap food from the Back 40s (which was then canned) every day, either.

I’ve always said that when my body wants to gain weight, it outgrows my underwear, and when it wants to lose weight, the pounds come off. At one point, I’d lost 50 pounds — and then they started coming back on. “Oh, no you don’t!” I told myself and started riding my bike for about three times as long as I usually did and practically living on lettuce. It didn’t work: The weight came right back on.

Sadly, no amount of shaming would have made a difference. It’s a shame, too. If shaming could cause us to lose weight, maybe my hair could be shamed into losing the gray and my eyes into being able to read without benefit of contacts or glasses.

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