When “Fit Mom” Maria Kang came on Megyn Kelly Today on Thursday morning, she was ostensibly there to share her kinder, gentler approach to motivating others to reach their fitness goals. But while Kang has replaced her controversial “What’s your excuse?” tagline with “What’s your reason?” Kelly herself suggested she should fat-shame people as part of her business model.
“You should parlay the shaming thing into a professional business, because some of us want to be shamed,” Kelly said. “When I was in law school and I was gaining weight, I said to my stepfather, ‘If you see me go into that kitchen one more time, you say, “Where you going fat ass?”’ And it works!”
This idea of motivational bullying did not sit well with some viewers, who quickly took to Twitter to say so.
“Please. Join the body positivity movement,” Deanna Dobbs wrote. “You talk about empowering women-then laugh as you talk about asking to be called fat ass by your father when you eat. It’s not funny. It may have ‘worked’ for you, but body shaming is wrong, demeaning and harmful!”
This should belong to the league of the worst takes along with "Bullying helps people overcome their weaknesses". Hope you are proud of your hire @MSNBC
— Soy Boy (@vivek17b) January 11, 2018
That's like saying some women like to be sexually harassed… What a bonehead @megynkelly
— Lauren Sue Rosenberg (@LaurenS41) January 11, 2018
@megynkelly Please. Join the body positivity movement. You talk about empowering women-then laugh as you talk about asking to be called fat ass by your father when you eat. It’s not funny. It may have “worked” for you, but body shaming is wrong, demeaning and harmful!
— Deanna Dobbs (@carpedeediem) January 11, 2018
@TODAYshow What the hell did I just watch?! @megynkelly and the “fit mom” talking about shamming women into working out or not eating certain foods?! That was awful and unacceptable. #todayshow #MegynTODAY
— Steph (@TylerGsMama) January 11, 2018
On her show Friday, Kelly offered an apology to those she offended.
“I said something yesterday on the show that clearly struck a nerve, and I think it’s a conversation we need to have. We were discussing body shaming others, something I absolutely do not support. In fact, quite the opposite.” #MegynTODAY pic.twitter.com/aNhyZAIjd5
— Megyn Kelly TODAY (@MegynTODAY) January 12, 2018
“I said something yesterday on the show that clearly struck a nerve, and I think it’s a conversation we need to have openly,” Kelly said. “We were discussing body shaming others, something I absolutely do not support. In fact, quite the opposite.”
She went on to explain that her “entire family is or has been overweight,” noting that her sister at one point weighed more than 300 pounds and elected to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
Kelly herself struggled with her weight as well. “By the time I got to middle school, the hormones and the weight kicked in. I was chubby, by any standard and soon I found myself on the wrong side of some vicious bullies,” she revealed. “Ones who called me fat, and made fun of my backside, who subjected me to humiliating pranks. Those comments can cut deep, trust me, I know. Soon there were diet pills and obsessive exercise and I had reduced my calorie intake to 500 calories a day. My heart was racing all day, my hair and skin were dry but I was thin. And so unhappy. I was scared of gaining weight because of the insane standard this country holds its women to and because I was and remain afraid of dying in my 40s, which happened to my father.”
However, as an adult, Kelly’s adopted a healthier approach to eating and her body image. “Please know, I would never encourage that toward any person. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I once encouraged it toward myself. What I know for sure is that weight is an issue for millions of people, thin and heavy alike. And neither deserves to be judged or shamed for how they choose to handle that struggle,” she concluded.
Yet Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, agrees with the critics at home.
“The idea that shame is a motivator for healthy behavior is not one that is backed up by research or by anyone in our community,” Mysko tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
To the contrary, one study last year found that overweight people who had internalized feelings of weight bias were at a higher risk for metabolic disease. Another study showed that overweight adolescents whose parents spoke to them about weight were more likely to begin unhealthy dieting and binge-eating than those whose parents spoke to them about healthy eating.
What often happens, Mysko explains, is that bullying or shaming tends to exacerbate people’s insecurities about their bodies.
“Even if you do lose weight, it doesn’t translate to feeling better and more confident in most cases, particularly if you’re caught up in a cycle of dieting, where in many cases it leads to people feeling worse about themselves,” Mysko says.
Maybe being berated by a loved one for reaching for a snack stops a person from eating it, but it reinforces that individual’s low self-esteem. What Mysko wishes people could do instead is to stop thinking about health in terms of weight-loss.
“We should be talking about health in a holistic way, which would include mental health and how a person feels about themselves,” she says. “If you feel like you want to make changes to your approach to food and exercise, it should be from the framework of wanting to feel better about yourself overall.”
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