On the Jan. 11 episode of Megyn Kelly Today, show host Megyn Kelly said that some women "want" to be fat shamed in order to achieve their fitness goals — and that "it works." She also told the woman she was interviewing, fitness blogger Maria Kang, that there's an opportunity to "parlay the shaming thing into a professional business." Twitter was quick to call Kelly out for her comments, with many sharing personal stories of how fat shaming has negatively affected them.
Kelly made her comments while interviewing Kang about her fitness regimen. Kang, as BuzzFeed points out, was previously called out for fat shaming when she posted a photo to Facebook in 2013 showing her posed alongside her three kids, wearing a sports bra and shorts. The photo was captioned, "What's your excuse?" tying in with Kang's "No Excuse Mom" movement, but which some people saw as implying that if Kang could achieve a toned stomach after having three kids in three years, there was no reason other people couldn't do the same (which is, of course, not the case).
During the interview, Kelly said while she was in law school, she saw herself gaining weight, and told her stepfather, "If you see me going into that kitchen one more time, you say, 'Where are you going, fat *ss?'"
Kang replied, "My husband does that to me all the time. I tell him my goals, and [...] if I'm eating something like chips, he'll take the bag and he'll hide it. And I don't feel ashamed about that, because I told him what my goal was."
Twitter was quick to shut down Kelly's comments.
Some people pointed out the harmful impact comments like these have on people who experience disordered eating.
Some people questioned the message Kelly is sending parents.
Others were just plain unsurprised at Kelly's latest.
Let's make one thing crystal clear: Fat shaming does not "work." Having other people control your food intake or fitness regimen is not healthy. Fat shaming, however, does "cause major psychological harm," and can also have significant negative physical effects on victims, according to Kris Gunnars, writing for Healthline. Fat shaming has been correlated with a higher risk of depression, an increased risk of eating disorders, reduced self-esteem, and increased cortisol levels, which may "raise the risk of all sorts of chronic diseases," Gunnars added.
Another study, published in 2017 in the journal Obesity, showed that people who internalize fat shaming have a higher risk of serious health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. And before you claim folks are at risk for those issues because of their weight: The study found that fat shaming internalization was a risk factor all its own, because results remained steady "above and beyond the effects of body mass index," wrote Amanda MacMillan for Health.com.
When someone grows up surrounded by culture obsessed with being skinny, it creates a situation ripe for internalization. For Kelly, having her parent fat shame her apparently had enough of a positive effect that she wants to pass on that experience to other parents and kids. But that is not everyone's experience, and to declare that fat-shaming can have a positive effect is at best irresponsible, and at worst, deliberately contributes to a cultural mindset that can truly harm people.
As a teen, I was fat shamed by my parents. On top of that, my father referred to women he thought weighed too much with fatphobic slurs, and in the case of my stepmother, regularly fat shamed her directly to her face. So I've seen firsthand the harm fat shaming can do. Fat shaming doesn't need to be "parlayed into a professional business." It's already all around us, at all times, impacting people society thinks take up too much space. Fat shaming doesn't "work." And it never will.