Body shaming is a real thing, and it hurts. Although fat shaming has received a great amount of media attention, skinny shaming is also an issue.
So, what is body shaming?
If you’re not familiar with the term, body shaming is about making inappropriate and negative comments about another person’s weight or size. Frequently, this is something that overweight people are subjected to but there’s an increasing trend in criticizing those who look ‘too skinny’. The person who is the victim of the body shaming can be left feeling guilty, humiliated, and uncomfortable.
Body shaming can affect women and men of all sizes. The one who is targeted is made to feel uncomfortable, unhappy, and miserable, even if the perpetrator thinks that they’re just making a harmless joke.
Even though it is usually no one else’s business, there are ways to discuss weight and size that don’t destroy another person’s self-esteem and body image.
Second to the general information we are barraged with in the movies, on television, and all other media, fitness centers are one of the most common areas that have body shaming issues. Health stores and other retailers also report seeing similar issues among their customers, too.
Sadly, in this day and age, it’s common to see one person judge another person because he or she is too thin or too fat, compared to others. They may not even realize they are doing it because of all the messages they have already been exposed to out in the media that almost make it seem acceptable to look at people and judge them based on appearance. They also may not realize how dangerous it is.
Understanding the Dangers of Body Shaming
There are multiple dangers involved in body shaming:
First and foremost, you hurt the one you’re shaming. One of the biggest dangers is that you can offend another person and deeply hurt their feelings. A person who is already struggling with body image issues or eating disorders can feel even worse. This person may even turn away from support networks because of the fear of continued body shaming.
You may find that your comments, as innocent as you thought they were, damaged relationships. Body shaming can hurt and even destroy relationships. Friendships can be damaged by thoughtless comments about weight. You can lose your friend’s trust and destroy the connection.
Body shaming, whether realized or not, is a form of bullying that can lead to abuse and can create fear. It’s possible to create extreme consequences that negatively hurt another person. It can force a person to stop living their life – no longer comfortable going to the gym or even shopping for new clothes.
The fear of being ridiculed because of their size can make a person uncomfortable in their own skin. They may be afraid to express their true selves for fear of further criticism. This can lead to them wearing baggy clothes and hiding their body, or worse yet, hiding themselves altogether by becoming isolated from others.
It doesn’t matter whether the shaming if fat shaming or skinny shaming – any shaming is unacceptable. In extreme cases, skinny shaming can force a person to gain weight using unhealthy eating habits. They can turn to unhealthy food choices to rapidly put on the pounds or use soda and sugar in large quantities causing all kinds of future health issues. On the flip side, fat shaming can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as self starvation in the form of anorexia or bulimia.
Teenagers and young people are especially vulnerable to body shaming. They may not have the experience or life skills necessary to deal with it effectively, and they can develop unhealthy patterns to deal with the stress and shame. They may be afraid to ask for help, and it can affect them for the rest of their lives.
Body shaming can push anyone over the edge. You may think it’s okay because the person seems to be strong, or it looks like they don’t mind being the brunt of a joke, but it really isn’t. You may actually be helping to encourage them to isolate themselves from others and avoid going out in public, and force them into a life long obsession with their weight.
Avoiding Body Shaming of Any Kind
It’s easy to forget the impact of a comment about someone’s weight. Be mindful of your words.
Use these strategies to avoid body shaming others:
Refrain from making comments that could hurt. There simply isn’t a good reason to make another person feel ashamed about their weight or their size.
Don’t make assumptions. You don’t want to accuse them of having an eating disorder, living in the gym, starving, or only eating lettuce. It’s not helpful to assume that another person must suffer from an eating disorder or work out every hour to have a thin body, and it’s even less helpful to assume someone is lazy or a glutton because they are not thin.
Avoid comparisons. Comparing your body to theirs, or to someone else’s body, could just be another way to criticize their body shape. Even if you don’t mean it that way, it could easily be taken as a criticism, and if the person is sensitive about their size, it surely will be taken as shaming.
The world is filled with a variety of body types, and some are naturally thin and some tend to be larger. Body shaming can destroy confidence, build a negative body image, and lead to unhealthy practices.
Instead of allowing body shaming, why not make it a point to uplift your friends, loved ones, and acquaintances? Choose your words carefully, mind your own business, follow the golden rule, and you’ll build them up, not tear them down. It’s up to you – start something new.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.