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If weight loss stories are viewed as fat shaming, it makes it more of a challenge to raise the issues that are related to being overweight (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

A few months ago, Plant Based News covered the story that Adele had lost 100lbs

This was rumoured to have been attributed to her following a mainly plant-based diet. More recently her friend comedian Alan Carr lost weight after being inspired by Adele.

Many comments on the article about Adele said the story itself was fat shaming.

I disagree.

But why are weight loss stories considered fat shaming by some and how can we look at these differently and in a more positive light?

How we interpret what someone says to us or what we read can be down to many things. A weight loss story may understandably trigger certain emotions in someone if this is something they’ve struggled with.

The problem with labelling weight loss as fat shaming

But if weight loss stories are viewed as fat shaming, it makes it more of a challenge to raise the issues that are related to being overweight.

Instead, if we can have helpful, open, and constructive discussions about weight issues we can then talk about the healthy, sustainable changes that can have a positive impact on someone’s life.

I know when my doctor told me I needed to lose weight I took this as advice. I saw it as him trying to help me, and I decided to do something about it. But the reverse could be true for many and they will see it as an attack.

Fearful doctors

This means many doctors are fearful of raising the issue of a patient’s weight in case their comments are taken as fat shaming. It’s not just doctors either – many of us will have felt too scared to say anything when we’ve been concerned about a close friend or family member’s increasing weight.

Fat shaming is about disrespecting a person and can come in many guises. However, covering a story about a person’s weight loss in a neutral way (and provided the weight loss is not a result of an illness ) is not disrespectful; neither is it bullying or shaming.

Talking about someone’s weight loss is not implying that they were unattractive, lazy, or lacking self-control beforehand either.

A person’s weight issues can often be tied to low self-esteem, poor confidence and quite often negative or upsetting events from the past. This is why comfort eating, or emotional eating is very common in people who are overweight. It’s something I see a lot in my health coaching practice

Feeling judged because of their weight, on top of what else they may have going on, is not going to help someone to feel empowered to make changes.

Many doctors are fearful of raising the issue of a patient’s weight in case their comments are taken as fat shaming (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

The media plays a part in fat shaming

Being bombarded with images of super-skinny women and men with six-packs sends the message that if you don’t look like that, there’s something wrong with you. Comparing yourself to people like this can trigger all sorts of negative thoughts and behaviour.

The issue is perpetuated by entertainment magazines, highlighting any perceived imperfections in a celebrity’s body, which reinforces the notion that you are somehow flawed if you don’t have a perfect body.

What needs to happen instead

It’s not just celebrities of course; people who are overweight are often portrayed negatively – and this is what needs to stop.

If we didn’t have this culture of judgement and shaming people who are overweight, then there wouldn’t be the reaction we’ve seen when someone loses weight.

Being kind and compassionate towards yourself and others is a much more positive place to start.

By being in a place of acceptance and valuing yourself you’re in a much stronger position to want to give your body what it needs – the nutrients and healthy lifestyle to thrive.

When you do this, you’re less likely to spiral into self-loathing, eating crappy foods, berating yourself, and then eating more crappy foods because you feel crappy, and it goes on…

Being kind and compassionate towards yourself and others is a positive place to start (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

Let’s put the focus on healthy weight

Being a healthy weight can bring so many positives – mentally, emotionally and physically.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be happier because you are a healthy weight and it doesn’t mean you’re unhappy if you’re overweight. But maintaining a healthy weight by adopting a healthy lifestyle can help with things such as obsessing about your diet and your body.

You reduce your risk of obesity-related issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and complications relating to Covid-19. And there are the other bonuses –like not getting out of breath, reduced pain and having more energy. Who doesn’t want more of that?

By wanting weight loss stories to be seen in a more positive light I am in no way dismissing the fact that many people are struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating.

But this should not stop us talking about the very real health issues related to being overweight.

And of course, a healthy weight will mean something different for everyone – we come in all shapes and sizes.

Higher risk

Genetics and certain conditions play a part of course, as well as your lifestyle. Your genes may be the reason you put on weight easily while your friend seems to be able to eat exactly what they want without putting on an ounce!

That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do; it might be that you just have to do things differently.

With over 60 percent of the UK population now overweight or obese, according to UK Parliament statistics, it’s become the norm. This means people often don’t realise they’re at a higher risk of weight related illnesses and conditions.

Health isn’t just about your body weight of course. Other aspects of your life all have an impact, so we shouldn’t equate being a healthy weight with necessarily being a healthy person.

Your mental health, how active you are, whether you smoke, what you’re eating and drinking and if you are managing stress all determine how healthy you are.

It’s time to frame weight loss stories in a more positive light

Weight loss stories where someone has focused on eating healthily – as Adele’s personal trainer has acknowledged was the case for her – should be a cause for celebration and the person should be acknowledged for their hard work and tenacity.

Ultimately how people respond and how they feel about what they read and hear is their choice. I hope that most people who want to lose weight will be inspired by stories like these and feel that they too can achieve a healthy weight with a healthy plant-based lifestyle.

Celebrities are of course influential, but whether you’re a celebrity or not, by taking control of your health and what you eat, you never know who you may positively influence too. 

Coral Sirett

Coral Sirett is a plant-based body confidence coach, qualified nutrition and weight management adviser, workplace wellbeing consultant, speaker and the founder of Zest Health. Based in the UK, she works with clients worldwide offering private health coaching and consultations, a personalised nutrition report, and an online programme. Coral’s approach is gentle and sustainable as she believes that becoming body confident should be an enjoyable and positive experience. Find out more at Zest Health.