I remember walking down the street with a friend (we were 14 years old), and we had a small bag of sweets. I didn’t realize we were being observed so closely and was told with a rebuffed tone, “you don’t need those”.
It was a scathing verbal delivery with an extra side of shame from a prominent personality in our community.
I couldn’t believe that I had been dressed down like that, and the message I received was that I wasn’t worthy of a treat; I was fat and should be disgusted in myself.
Fat-shaming is nothing new; it has been a deep judgment that has been going on for centuries (since the 1920s, to be exact).
A Fat-Shaming Culture
In the 21st century, social media has been a vast portal of activity for people of different ages to have instant access to the ideal body, skin, hairstyle, clothing choices, makeup, and body size.
Fat shaming is a form of prejudice that is found online, at work, at school, in the eye of the general public, and even celebrities fall prey to it.
Look at any daily mail website, and you’ll be marketed to other women’s flaws and be fascinated that they too can have these shared moments of secret shame.
You may even think that makes me feel better about myself because she, too, isn’t perfect today. When you have gained weight, there are all sorts of self-critical narratives that can take place internally, but externally there is the pressure of society, your parents giving you grief about taking care of your health, your partner’s choice of words that you find triggering and then there are your friends who are fighting their own battles with their weight.
Their conversations surrounding food choices and topics of diets and healthy living are associated with conversations that you would rather not be bothering your brainpower and energy on.
The Two Types of Women
#1 The women who have carried the weight of the world on their shoulders and the weight have covered their bodies too. Layers of negative self-talk, stories, and traumatic experiences have plagued this woman. She’s attempted time and time to shift her weight and been on a perpetual diet for the majority of her life. These women are always ready for a comment, a putdown, or a shameful moment because someone somewhere will have an opinion about her current “disposition”. Not to mention the yo-yo dieting and the shame of putting the weight back on repetitively but mind you, when she manages to lose weight, she will be congratulated.
#2 The other women live without those feelings because she has been slim and never had to worry about anyone’s fat-shaming opinions on her body. She gets compliments and adoring yet jealous stares of how wonderful her life must be that she isn’t overweight. It doesn’t matter that this woman may struggle with feeling too skinny as no one thinks that being too thin would be a problem. Maybe it has been an ongoing problem her whole life – but no one questions it as thin is widespread as health.
Why Fat Shaming?
Among women, fat-shaming is even more common than racial discrimination, according to work by Rebecca Puhl and colleagues at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.
Weight stigma raises people’s risk of being bullied as children and impairs their prospects in education, careers, and successful romantic relationships. It also increases the risk of depression and suicide, disordered eating, and avoidance of physical activity that can ultimately lead to more weight gain.
Perhaps a deeply seeded generational throwback to years of diet culture that your grandmother and mother went through to gain self-acceptance and the harsh reality that no one wants to feel they take up too much space in the metaphorical room.
Potentially It’s been part of your DNA without you realizing it, and you could be deep in the bias of fat-shaming without any awareness.
When you shame someone, you are sending the message “you are worthless” -Brene Brown.
Fat-shaming causes trauma to people’s minds, bodies, and souls; everyone, regardless of body size or shape, deserves to be treated without harm or respect.
I remember being in a specific workplace and listening to conversations at a monthly meeting about how certain people on the team were “so skinny, so hot”.
When I was at my largest weight, I became so triggered by these conversations and could pinpoint when this would happen, and it was as soon as I was walking through the door.
Comments on outfits and being a skinny bitch would be the norm. But when It came to anyone who had a larger frame, it would be deathly silent. Sometimes my clothing choice would be noted as “sexy” but the tone of voice would dictate otherwise.
I have memories that when I had returned to that workplace a smaller version of myself, I was then told in jest that I was a slut because I was now “skinny and hot”.
Either way, in this chain of monthly events, the person in charge carries a responsibility for the mental health of their team; no one should be made to feel less than, fat-shamed, or made to feel worthless because of their body.
The point is many critical conversations are had in the workplace. There are so many prevention programs in place for physical, verbal, social, and cyberbullying, but fat shaming has been left off the curriculum.
The Outcome of Fat Shaming
I watched a clip on Twitter that James Corden featured talking about fat-shaming featuring Bill Maher in 2019, who famously said, “fat-shaming needs to make a comeback, we have gone to a weird place where fat is good”.
Now that is calling out the literal elephant in the room.
The perception is that fat people are lazy, ugly, and can’t be bothered. The fat-shamers don’t see the heartache and the distorted eating patterns that go on behind the scenes. Ignorant to the depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviors that can lead to eating disorders, confidence issues, and low self-respect.
Fat-shamers could see themselves as tough love cheerleaders with no sugar coating included. This type of attitude is not going to solve the obesity epidemic; it’s contributing to the overall issue. Obesity is not a choice; it could be genetics, upbringing, trauma, undiagnosed medical problems, and economic status. It’s far more complicated than being told to eat lettuce and drink water.
Working through the underlying issues is hard enough for those that need to lose weight. The more we work to educate others around empathy and knowledge on very personal issues such as fat-shaming there would be more room for people to reach a level of confidence to work towards their individual health goals.