Bioethicists Encourage The “Shame Diet”

Some bioethicists have recently begun suggesting that shaming fat people may be just the kind of tough love that is needed to end America's obesity epidemic.

Daniel Callahan​, president emeritus and senior research scholar at The Hastings Center wrote this in his paper on pressuring heavy people:

“Safe and slow incrementalism that strives never to stigmatize obesity has not and cannot do the necessary work.”

Callahan's argument rests on the precedent set by the stigmatization of cigarette-use and the resulting plummet in smoking rates. Callahan suggests that the same strategy could be used on obesity, although one hopes he doesn't mean banning it from all indoor establishments and selling a food patch to ween people off eating.

Many people react to Callahan's plan in what is probably the least surprising fashion that has ever occured: they are offended. For instance, Deb Burgard, an eating disorder psychologist, said,

"For him to argue that we need more stigma, I don’t know what world he’s living in . . . he must not have any contact with actual free-range fat people."

Keep in mind however that Burgard is a member of the advisory board for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which makes her opinion a big fat conflict of interest.

Callahan expressed concern in his paper that stigmatizing obese people might lead to a more destructive kind of bullying. He wrote in his paper:

“Can there be social pressure that does not lead to outright discrimination – a kind of stigmatization lite?”

Good question. In the words Einstein, "No."