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

Danielle Levy believes fat-shaming is good.

Danielle Levy believes fat-shaming is good.
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.”

Danielle Levy.

Danielle Levy.
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 pussy-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.”

James Corden.

James Corden.
YouTube/The Late Late Show with James Corden

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.”

Read more: I struggle to eat healthy food and fit in exercise when I’m busy and stressed. How can I stay on track?

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.”

Danielle Levy.

Danielle Levy.
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.”

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• WHAT IS HEALTH FIRST FITNESS? • ⁣ Over the weekend I hosted the Fit To Thrive event along with some brilliant guest speakers for Fitness professionals to introduce them and educate them on health first, weight inclusive fitness and how to put it into practice. ⁣ ⁣ A Health First, weight inclusive approach instead does things a bit differently to the weight centric paradigm the fitness industry largely works in. ⁣ ⁣ At the moment, this is a specialist area in fitness but I hope that with more education and awareness this starts to become more mainstream. ⁣ From the interactions I have with you, with clients and the greater community – there is a strong need and appetite for this work! ⁣ ⁣ For many who want to work on health improvement, their first port of call is the gym or a workout class. ⁣ As Trainers and Instructors we have such a wonderful opportunity to really set the tone for a persons relationship with fitness. We can help people to understand this is self care and not self punishment and therefore establish sustainable ways of incorporating joyful movement in to their life without overt pressure to change their body. ⁣ ⁣ If you’re a PT or want to work in this industry and this resonates with you, then please join my ‘Be-Fitting’ Facebook Group for fitness pros as I hope to host more educational events in the future. ⁣ ⁣ I’m really excited and optimistic about the future of the industry and believe that we can create a new environment where ALL people feel included and have greater access and opportunity to enjoy movement and it’s wonderful benefits! ⁣ ⁣ Thank you to @thephitcoach @hannahlewin_ @scarrednotscared @thedietbotcott and @garciafranks for sharing your insights and wisdom at Fit To Thrive! ⁣ ⁣ #healthfirstfitness #joyfulmovement #weightinclusive #nondiet #intuitivemovement #intuitiveeating #fitness #fitnessindustry ⁣

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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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•HOW TO BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF• ⁣ It took me a while to figure this out. ⁣ ⁣ At school as a teenager, I longed to be popular, to fit in, to be liked, to be normal. So I moulded myself into who and what I thought people wanted me to be. ⁣ I wanted to be like all the popular girls I saw on TV and in movies and so I mimicked that in real life. ⁣ ⁣ It sort of worked. But I got to 16/17 and realised that all these people I’d tried to impress and fit in with didn’t really care about me. When shit hit the fan and I lost my Dad, only a few people really stuck around. ⁣ ⁣ From then on, at school, I decided to be my true self, I started doing drama and my friends were a lot more stagey. I was finally myself. ⁣ ⁣ But years later, after finishing drama school, I found myself having a presence on Instagram and I was back to my old ways. I was trying to fit in, be liked, be normal, be who and what people wanted me to be – I started moulding myself to a person who I thought was successful, liked and happy. ⁣ ⁣ Last year when I started working with my life coach @samjonestwenty I was all over the place. I knew who and what I wanted to be but I was SO SCARED to step into and be that person. ⁣ Early on, Sam got me to 1) watch The Power of Vulnerability by @brenebrown Ted Talk and 2) Establish what my values are and what was important to me. ⁣ ⁣ As I outlined my values, I realised that to stay true to them meant being vulnerable and uncomfortable. ⁣ I’ve had to accept not being liked by everyone. ⁣ I’ve had to learn to trust myself and trust my gut. ⁣ I’ve had to bring everything I do back to my values. ⁣ I’ve had to learn, read and challenge a lot of my beliefs. ⁣ ⁣ It’s an ongoing process. But it’s liberating when you can step into who you are meant to be ????. ⁣ ⁣ #values #vulnerability #authenticself #authenticity ⁣ ⁣ ⁣

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“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.”

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THE SCIENCE OF FAT SHAMING ???? With 29% of UK adults classified as obese, it's easy to assume that being overweight is a problem that can’t be solved. Living in a society so rife with diet culture, many believe that some people are just lazy and simply make poor choices when it comes to food and exercise. But have you ever questioned the potential impact of comments and beliefs like this? . As opposed to motivating someone to lose weight, research shows that obese people who have experienced weight discrimination are actually three times more likely to remain overweight ???????? And worryingly, weight stigma can have some devastating effects on a person’s ???? mental health too. . Strangely, weight bias is recognised as one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination ???? so joining me this week on my podcast Food For Thought (link in my bio) to tell us why fat-shaming has the potential to be so damaging is @SophieDietitian. . Please know that we need complex interventions to address the health problems associated with overweight and obesity. Ignoring the complexity of weight, and allowing this to simply become a fight against overweight people, doesn’t help anyone at all! . In the words of James Cordon to fat shamers – "while you're encouraging people to think about what goes into their mouths, just think a little harder about what comes out of yours." . And, may I add that you're absolutely right in thinking that most people in the UK eat too much unhealthy food. But as consumers, are we all being deluded by brands and supermarkets who (entirely legally – read yesterday’s post!) camouflage portion sizes and the shocking level of unhealthy ingredients in everyday foods? I really think we should get behind the movement to stop shaming fat people and start shaming the companies that actually push unnecessarily unhealthy foods. . Food For Thought is available everywhere inc. Apple, Spotify and Castbox, and if you love the show, please do leave a 5* rating and review ⭐ Help me share all the important evidence-based truths we discuss about living a healthy lifestyle that everyone ought to know! . #Rhitrition #ReNourish #FatShaming #FatPhobia #DietCulture

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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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