Katie Hopkins purposefully gained 20kg, to show how ‘easy’ it is to lose weight.

What Can We Learn From The Most Hated Woman In Britain?

Katie Hopkins, a professional British ‘shit stirrer’ and “commentator”, has attracted global media attention spruiking her show “My Fat Story”, in which she deliberately over-eats until she gains 20kg, then loses it again.

A lifelong thin person, and blissfully unencumbered by any scientific knowledge about weight, Katie’s feelpinion is both harsh and simplistic. She wants fat people to “stop blaming everyone else for problems they can control”.

Katie pre weight gain. Image via Facebook.

Katie is convinced she’s making a ‘point’ that losing weight is easy if people just tried hard enough.

But My Fat Story dismally fails to do this: all she ‘proves’ is people who have been thin all their lives find it hard to gain weight and relatively easy to lose it again – and we already know that.

Science has found a lot of interesting things about weight, and the BBC documentary “Why Are Thin People Not Fat?” is a great program to watch to find out why everything Katie says is completely misguided.

But though she misses her intended point, Katie does (accidentally) raise a couple of issues that are worth talking about.

Katie pre weight gain. Image via Facebook.

Katie Is A Bitch To Everyone Because She’s A Bitch To Herself

This show says more about Katie – and people like Katie – than it offers anything particularly useful about weight. She is critical towards fat people, but she’s also very critical towards herself, something she admits to a psychologist she speaks with in the show. Sadly, she quickly dismisses her moment of insight and spends the rest of the show bullying people.

Katie binge eating to gain weight. Image via Facebook.

Katie is ruled by a harsh inner critic which commands her to keep ‘improving’ herself. Her critic says she must stay slim and strong in order to feel in control. Through immense self-discipline, Katie has regimented her life, running marathons, eating strictly, and constantly ‘performing’ to please this inner critic.

Like many perfectionists, she only feels good about herself when she is doing well. When she gets fat, she falls apart, because her inner critic rages at her.

Being ‘fat’ makes Katie sad. Image via My Fat Story documentary

People who operate this way have a very hard time understanding those who don’t live their lives governed by harsh criticism or the pursuit of control/perfection. They want to inflict their way of thinking and living on other people, blithely ignoring the fact that their way doesn’t work for most of us. Katie’s interactions with people are characterised by meanness, judgemental comments, and perfectionistic demands. Her way of communicating with the world mirrors how she speaks to herself – and it’s not nice.

As a result of her inner critic, Katie’s interviews with people in My Fat Story are painful to watch. She bumbles around, insulting people, shaming them, and alienating just about everybody. It’s very sad to see. At least we can turn off her TV show – but Katie has to live with herself and her awful inner critic all the time.

Katie after weight gain. Image via Facebook.

Judgement Is A Terrible Motivator

Katie thinks that a hefty does of criticism will motivate people to change. This is because in her personal experience, harsh judgement ‘works’. That’s how she runs marathons.

But many people with weight and other struggles already judge themselves – but for them it doesn’t ‘work’. Rather than motivating healthy behaviour, for them the harsh judgement stops self care.

Katie after her weight gain. Image via Facebook.

Imagine a classroom of 30 kids. The teacher is critical, harsh, nasty. She makes snide comments about their stupidity, lack of intelligence, their silly mistakes. She threatens them with a bleak future unless they perform well. In this classroom, maybe a few kids will ‘rise’ to the judgement, beat the shame by over-performing, by becoming perfect. But the majority of kids will eventually learn to stop trying. To avoid the shame associated with failure by not acting at all. This is “freezing”, and it is a direct response to perfectionism. This is why judgement doesn’t work.

Being critical and judgemental doesn’t help most people. People like Katie should never be allowed to help people struggling with their weight. In fact, people with weight issues need protection from them.

There is now a significant body of research to show that self compassion leads people to adopt healthy behaviours that last, as opposed to ‘tough love’ approaches that lead people to try for a little while and then give up.

So thank you, Katie Hopkins, for helping us to see exactly how attitudes like yours affect people. Let’s use people like you as an example of what not to do around weight issues. And please go back and see that psychologist, she can help you reign in your inner critic.

* I use the term ‘fat’ in the above story as a non-judgemental descriptor, akin to ‘tall’ or ‘short’. I do not believe the term ‘fat’ is implicitly negative.

Louise is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Treat Yourself Well Sydney, creator of Treat Yourself Well online, and co-author of The Non-Diet Approach Handbook for Psychologists and Counsellors.

What do you think? Does ‘tough love’ work for you?