Hive is a Slate discussion forum in which readers are invited to offer solutions to wide-ranging problems. Harrison's topic was Childhood Obesity. When host Evan Kleiman asked about extreme proposals, this is what Harrison reported:
"We saw quite a few responses that talked about how kids needed to be shamed into being healthier and feel stigmatized for being overweight if we were ever going to have hope to make them lose weight we needed to make them feel bad about themselves."
I'm going to venture a guess that those responses were from people who have never struggled with disordered eating, depression, or obesity.
There's plenty of information out there about how size is not a valid indicator of health. Take me, for instance. Someone who doesn't know me could look at me and assume that I'm due for a heart attack. But compare my blood pressure with, I dunno, anyone outside of a serious athlete, and mine will probably be healthier.
I don't really want to talk about my physical health, though. I want to talk about my mental health. I want to talk about what shame did for me.
Before I became active this year, I was filled with shame. Every time we'd walk with friends, or we'd be invited on a hike with family, I would be humiliated that I couldn't keep up. Or humiliated that I was puffing. So I'd elect not to walk with them. I'd elect not to walk at all.
Whenever anyone would comment on what I ate - "wow, that looks... filling..." "you shouldn't be eating that cupcake..." etc. I felt so much self-loathing. Anger at myself, and a LOT of anger at whoever was judging me. After all, much of the time, I ate just fine. I maintained weight for several years, with a gradual uptick. Some of the time I didn't eat well. But I doubt you ever saw me. Because I was so ashamed of it, I did it when I was alone. And the more anyone tried to make me feel shameful about it, the more I'd eat - in private - as a reaction.
Shame, for me, was not a motivator. It was the anti-motivator. It made everything that much worse.
It was not until I went to therapy, and worked on everything surrounding my disordered eating and lack of exercise, that I was able to work on that issue, too. It wasn't until I found the Fat Acceptance community, and realized that I deserved respect no matter what I looked like, that I was ready to respect myself. It was not until I felt worthy of taking care of myself that I was ready to make the changes in my life that have made me stronger, more nourished, more balanced.
I'm not an Oprah watcher, but I caught her last show yesterday. (I'm a sucker for finales.) She said something that rang so very true to me: