Have you heard of The Halo Effect?
No, no. I'm not referring to that thing that happens when Beyoncé shows up on a holiday telethon and sings her song Halo and we all start sending in money we don't have despite the fact that the charity is called The Stocking Fund for Children of Wealthy Pop Singers because Who cares?!?! The Song!!!!
Nope. That's not what I'm talking about:)
The Halo Effect refers to an interesting quirk of the human mind where powerful impressions about something or someone spill over into other, unfounded, judgements about that person or thing.
Well, it means that, if you went to a party this weekend and met someone and your impression was that she was kind, without knowing anything about her you might judge that she is charitable and good with children and reliable and, and, and....anything else you might associate with kind.
What does that have to do with food and body image, you ask?
The Halo Effect most definitely applies to WEIGHT.
Women tend to be judged as more attractive, better mate choices, and more positive, in general, if they are thin.
Higher weights in women, on the other hand, are considered a character flaw that can and should be overcome by will. "Overweight" women (not my term, in the research!) are judged as lazy, greedy, and selfish - and this perception leads to WELL-DOCUMENTED discrimination in the medical system and in employment contexts.
It's particularly disturbing given the fact that the research shows that weight is mostly genetic, "overweight" women don't consume more calories (sometimes fewer!) than "normal" weight women, weight-loss is a losing game, and the women I work with in this area are some of the most dedicated, hard-working, successful women I know. And the only reason they haven't "succeeded" at weight loss is because their body was never designed to be good at it.
I know I'm preaching to the choir here but it reminds me WHY this work is so important, for each of us as individuals and also as a community.
You can see The Halo Effect play out every day on social media when a plus-sized woman dares reveal her body and hordes of trolls and fitness experts show up to offer fast-judgement about everything from the food the woman consumes to how she moves to her body, to her sexuality and personality. AND THEY FEEL JUSTIFIED because they think it's a fact. It's not a fact. It's emotional judgement based on impression.
A plus-sized fashion Instagrammer recently reached out to me to say that she was repeatedly harassed online for promoting an "unhealthy lifestyle" on her IG feed. She was like:
"huh?? I don't promote ANY lifestyle. I just wear clothes and take pics."
But her trolls believe her body = a lifestyle.
And not only that, they equate her body with a lifestyle that is so despicable and irresponsible that they feel free to hurl insults.
It also highlights why it is SO HARD to fully accept your body and move on from the diet game.
I mentioned it in my THIN PRIVILEGE piece - but the reality remains: those in bigger bodies can't "just" repair their body image and move on - it's so much harder than that because despite how one might heal their own relationship with food and body and their own self-perception, the world will keep judging and discriminating. It's a reality.
Just some weekend #foodforthought.