Shame Yourself to Skinny
Yesterday’s post about Chris Christie’s weight generated a lot of good discussion here and elsewhere—and it got me thinking about shame and whether or not we could or should use it to influence others to better health.
In fact, some have taken the stance that we should shame people into losing weight.
There are a lot of problems with being fat and shame is a common experience for many of us. Be it from critical remarks from people, a self-criticizing inner voice, air-brushed visions of beauty, or a broken heart left by another broken person.
Should we shame ourselves or others into getting healthy?
Should the ends (better health) justify whatever means (shame)?
My new friend Marion wrote a great article where, to paraphrase, she basically said that not only is shame/resentment a poor reason to pursue health but it also makes it more likely that you’ll quit.
I agree—but I have a confession to make.
Monday I ate maybe 9 pieces of pizza. I’m talking a total binge—just several hours after letting loose for the big game.
Frustrated (maybe even ashamed), I went to the gym for a second workout that evening.
Now I know it’s not that easy to undue the damage of overeating at lunch, but if I could so easily return to that pizza box, or to that buffet line, or get a thiiird helping—can’t I pull a double at the gym to at least think about my choices?
Is that shame? I honestly don’t know.
It’s generally good practice to consider your own motives for pursuing health. I’m sure, looking back, I’ll find that I had good + bad reasons to get healthy.
But I do know that while shame may motivate us to overtrain or eat celery for lunch, it has no consistent place in sustainable living.
- Shame may get us off the couch today, but what about tomorrow?
- Shame may push us to starve ourselves this week after so many failures last week—but what happens week 3?
- Shame may be the reason we melted fat in January, but what will keep the heart rate up and calories down in February?
We care about the voice of shame until we don’t—then we go into default mode.
Diets are built for shame. You enjoyed carbs/sweets/friedness too much—and now, to punish you, they are forbidden— you disgusting fatbody.
Forbidden until a human moment of weakness—enter the binge—then more shame—then back to the diet. Rinse + repeat.
If shame is the reason we pursue health, it will also be the reason we aren’t satisfied when we do reach our goals. More likely, shame will probably be the reason we quit.