In her recent podcast titled 'fat-shaming?' Jillian Michael, personal trainer to the stars turned armchair psychologist (most known for being on Biggest Loser U.S. - a weight loss reality show) rejects the idea of fat-shaming. According to her no one can make you feel ashamed about your body or appearance. In-fact no one can make you feel anything that you don't 'want' to feel and should you feel it (whatever it is) then it's because it lives 'inside' of you already. In other words, if you've ever felt bad about the way you look, well, it's because you want to feel bad. Never mind the ongoing and tiresome objectification and scrutinization of male and female bodies. Never mind the combined forces of capitalism, media and celebrity unapologetically inviting us to critically look at ourselves so that we can then feel better about committing to unrealistic, unsustainable health regimes. Our morality depends on it, so it would seem. All of this directly and indirectly creates shame and stigma around weight and physical appearance. What we get is a rise in obsessive exercising among young people, body dissatisfaction among females, and eating and body image disorders among men (see: Sharpe et al, 2013; Tiggeman and Pickering, 1998; Agliata and Tantleff-Dunn, 2004; Ryan and Morrison, 2009; Hargreaves and Tiggeman, 2006). There have been numerous other studies, too many to list, that document these effects.
As self-determining agents we do have a say in how we interpret and respond to mainstream body/self rhetoric. In the words of Susan Bordo, we're not simply passive dupes of ideology. This might be easier said than done considering the time we live in. If a fit body is a successful body then fatness (however it's defined or measured) is almost always defeated, thus undesirable. Westerners fear fat and, as with any fear, shaming is an unfortunate consequence. Pushing back on this, i.e. the status quo, can be just as exhausting as the fear itself. Women still get the raw end of the deal in all of this. Their bodies are disproportionately picked apart and put on show and they do report higher levels of body dissatisfaction (refer to studies mentioned above and beyond) but there's more to the story. The Western relationship with physicality and appearance is a complicated one. Cultural studies scholar, Mike Featherstone (2010) alludes to this when he says that the notion of transformation [of the body and self] is a key tenet of Western modernity, that I would add, concerns everyone for reasons much more complex than just gender or just weight, for that matter. Television shows like Operation Transformation, My Big Fat Diet Show, DietTribe and The Biggest Loser franchise take a mind/body moral high-ground and drive it home like everyone's life depends on it. They're examples of how popular culture, body politics and ethics converge to form a marketable brand of 'unnecessary problem-cum-solution' wrapped into one. As for the hosts of these programmes, they're likely knowledgeable enough about diet and fitness to safely inform the public but many of them just end up personifying the hype and so what would be good, solid advice unfortunately gets lost amidst the spectacle.
An interesting article that documents women's telling of size prejudice can be found here.