Men Are Fat Shaming Targets Too

Every time a celebrity shows up at the beach without a picture perfect body (according to some perceived standard) they end up on magazine covers with headlines like “out of control” or “letting herself go.” Women have been the usual targets until recently. This week Prince Fielder bared his body on the cover of ESPN Magazine and took a hit from Paleo Manifesto author John Durant, among others on Twitter. Check out the article This Male Athlete Is Getting Fat Shamed on Yahoo News this week. Leonardo DiCaprio took a hit earlier this year when photographed at the beach in an article entitled, The Great Fatsby published in New York Post.

Fat-shaming reflects two problems. First, our concept of the ideal body has become increasingly unrealistic. We can’t hold celebrities to these standards and shaming them when they fall short only sends the message to the rest of us mere mortals that we should all be ashamed of our imperfect bodies. Second, the nation still has a gross lack of understanding of the causes of overweight and obesity. I should note that it isn’t clear that everyone fat-shamed even has a weight issue, but even if they did, shaming them implies that they should feel bad about themselves because they should know better. Neither is true. Obesity is heavily influenced by a complex interplay of  genetic and environmental factors. In fact, an epidemic of obesity is precisely what would be expected given the genetic heritage of our species and the omnipresence of palatable food in the environment. When I say genetics, I don’t mean some people have the “obesity gene” and others don’t. A huge variety of genes impact our weight via their effects on appetite hormones, reward centers of the brain, response to exercise, food palatability, cue reactivity, impulse control, insulin secretion, stress hormones, among so many others.

Obesity is complicated. There is no single smoking gun and there never will be. People who fat shame don’t truly want to understand the causes. They want a simple black-and-white explanation, one that makes them look superior. Let’s not give them the audience they don’t deserve.

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