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A personal trainer advocated fat-shaming because she thinks it 'encourages people to lose weight,' but health and fitness experts disagree

INSIDER logoINSIDER 9/17/2019 Rachel Hosie
a woman talking on a cell phone © Danielle Levy
  • Personal trainer Danielle Levy has caused controversy by advocating fat-shaming.
  • "The more we fat-shame, the more people would keep their mouths shut and stop overeating," she said on UK breakfast TV show "Good Morning Britain."
  • The topic was being discussed after Bill Maher said fat-shaming "needs to make a comeback," and James Corden responded by saying that if fat-shaming worked, it would have worked by now.
  • "Fat-shaming is just bullying. And bullying only makes the problem worse," Corden said.
  • Experts told Insider they agree that fat-shaming is not the solution.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A personal trainer has waded in on the debate around fat-shaming by saying she believes it's the key to combatting the obesity epidemic.

Speaking on UK breakfast TV show "Good Morning Britain," Danielle Levy, from Essex, UK, said: "Big is not beautiful. Overeating is an addiction that leads to obesity, that leads to death. It doesn't matter whether or not big is beautiful.

"That is why this term 'fat-shaming' has become such a taboo because we focus so much on the aesthetic outcome of overeating, rather than the health risk."

Levy compared it to smoking: "You don't say to a smoker, 'Your breath stinks,' and they go light up another cigarette.

"The more we fat-shame, the more people would keep their mouths shut and stop overeating."

a woman wearing a red dress © Danielle Levy The trainer explained that people have told her in the past how they got stuck on water slides and that was the impetus they needed to help them get in shape.

"Fat-shaming encourages people to lose weight," she added.

Levy continued: "Should we make it okay to be obese, and to become ill as a result of overeating? Should we embrace this 'big is beautiful' era, because it's 'shaming' not to?

"We're pu**y-footing around it. We need to say fat is not necessarily ugly. But it's killing you. It's clogging up your arteries, it is bad. Being fat is bad."

The topic was being discussed following comments made by Bill Maher who said on "Real Time with Bill Maher" that fat-shaming "needs to make a comeback." 

Fellow talk show host James Corden disagreed, pointing out that if fat-shaming worked, there wouldn't be any fat people in the world.

"Fat-shaming never went anywhere, ask literally any fat person," Corden said.

He continued: "There's a common and insulting misconception that fat people are stupid and lazy, but we're not. We get it.

"We know that being overweight isn't good for us, and I've struggled my entire life trying to manage my weight and I suck at it."

Video: James Corden responds to Bill Maher’s fat-shaming segment (TODAY)

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But Corden maintained that fat-shaming isn't the solution.

"The truth is, you're working against your own cause. It's proven that fat-shaming only does one thing: It makes people feel ashamed. And shame leads to depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

"Self-destructive behavior like overeating."

Corden added: "Fat-shaming is just bullying. And bullying only makes the problem worse." 

But Levy told Insider that, like smoking, she thinks overeating should be made "socially unacceptable."

"The longer we go on saying 'big is beautiful,' the more people will continue to eat themselves into an early grave," she said.

"I would go as far as to say celebrity-led plus-size clothing companies should be banned. We should not glamorize obesity."

a person posing for the camera © Noel Daganta

However, the vast majority of health experts agree with Corden and have condemned Levy's comments.

"Fat-shaming doesn't work in the long-term because it's linked to weight stigma," London-based personal trainer Tally Rye, who is a staunch champion of the non-aesthetic benefits of fitness, told Insider.

"I think it's very simple to think that if you tell someone they're fat, they're going to stop being fat. But fortunately bodies come in all shapes and sizes and there will always be fat people in the world. I think that as a society we just have to accept that." 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Tally Rye (@tallyrye) on Sep 16, 2019 at 2:05am PDT

Rye believes to get people to make improvements to their health, which "can be totally independent of weight change," those people need to feel welcome and included, and you need to look at the bigger picture.

"For so long, people in certain bodies were targeted and shamed into doing these things and it's clearly not worked because, as James Corden said, if it had worked, there would be no fat people, and there are.

"Instead we need to focus society as a whole on making options for exercise and food more accessible to people because the biggest things holding people back from making these choices are their finances and their income. 

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A post shared by Tally Rye (@tallyrye) on Aug 28, 2019 at 6:46am PDT

"Instead of picking out individuals, we should be focusing on positively encouraging people to use things as self-care and not self-punishment.

"Shame and blame is never going to work - if it did work, it would've happened by now, and instead we need to create a more positive environment so people feel welcome and included to make the most positive choices for themselves."

Registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, who specializes in eating disorder recovery, told Insider that fat-shaming can lead to "more disordered eating for the rest of their lives," as well as "demotivating them further to make a change." 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by RHIANNON LAMBERT BSc MSc RNutr (@rhitrition) on Sep 15, 2019 at 11:30pm PDT

Lambert also agrees with Corden that fat-shaming is akin to bullying.

"It's most definitely not helpful," Lambert, whose latest "Food For Thought" podcast episode delves into the science behind fat-shaming, told Insider.

"We have research that suggests that people are more inclined to not make any health behavior changes if they feel poorly about themselves, so it's a form of bullying. We know that individuals who experience weight stigma are three times more likely to stay the weight they are.

"People respond in different ways to health and a very small minority may respond positively to bullying but that's essentially what this is.

"Making a comment on anyone's shape or size, regardless of whether they're underweight or overweight is not helpful, so it's not going to be very motivating for anyone if they don't feel positive about themselves."

Lambert points out that for most people who struggle with their weight, what they really need to work on is what's in their mind.

"People respond better to empathy, to a more individual approach, so someone who's taken the time to get to know the real causes as to why a person's lifestyle has become this way in the first place. Because at the end of the day it's not all about the food, it's a very psychological process." 


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