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Women Fighting Back Against "Food Shaming" Harassment

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Ice cream on a hot day or a juicy hamburger. How about flavored latte on the morning commute?

They're staples of the American diet.

But more and more people, especially women, say they're being openly taunted when eating fattening foods in public.

The hateful words are relayed on the website for Hollaback, a group committed to ending street harassment of all kinds. The director of the Boston chapter believes food shaming is on the rise.

"Whether it's a comment that they might lose their figure, or that they shouldn't be eating that in general, or that they don't need that," says Britni De La Cruz, of Hollaback Boston.

Heather Dougherty, of Hollaback Pittsburgh, says while food shaming isn't the most common form of harassment locally, it does happen.

"We're told from when we're younger that what you look like matters, it's the most important thing in the world, and when you see women on the street eating food, people feel like they have the right to comment on that," says Dougherty.

Ted Kyle, founder of the obesity public policy group, Conscien-Health, agrees. He says even if the people doing the shaming might think it's harmless, it's not.

"It does pile on and that's where young women are particularly vulnerable to eating disorders and vulnerable to feeling judged," said Kyle, of the Obesity Action Coalition. "You don't choose the body that you're born into, you get it. And then, it's your job to take care of it, and to tell idiots that want to tell you what you ought to look like, to shut up."

Perhaps fueling more groups like Hollaback, who advocate just that.

"I stop, I turn around, I open my body up and point at them, and kind of turn the shame back on them," said Dougherty. "If you see someone experiencing harassment, please intervene. Even if it's after the harassment happens. Let that person know that they're not alone."

Some experts suggest food shaming is another form of bullying.

Hollaback does not advocate intervening if you're in a situation where you feel unsafe.

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