Hey guys! What’s up? What’s new with you?
So, I want to talk about being fat-shamed versus someone showing genuine care over your health. As a person who has struggled with their weight for the longest time, it’s not easy. You can feel victimized or vindicated – but how do we tell?
If you’ve been following my blog (and start if you haven’t already!) you should know that I love definitions. Great starting points for complex topics. So, what does it mean to be fat-shamed?
So, as you guys probably assumed, fat-shaming is when you’re made to feel bad about being overweight. It’s not specified how much weight, but for the pure fact you have more weight than you’re ‘supposed’ to have.
And I’ve had this all my life. I think it starts with the fact my mum specifically prayed for me to be a fat baby who loves food. (LOL!) My older sister hardly ate as a baby and my mum was so frustrated that she took the issue to God and asked Him to make me eat as much as possible!
Alas, I was born a healthy naturally plump baby, who of course loved to eat!
My mum told me that I only cried for food, nothing else, which she made her super happy. This is obviously great for a growing baby, but not when I hit school.
My love for food became problematic when I was in primary school. I began to notice that I was much bigger (and taller) than most of my friends – clearly down to my genes but also because I ate like crazy.
So what used to be cute – became an actual issue.
To address this my parents made sure I got into sports and general fitness. Although I was really crap at everything, they continued to encourage me to keep at it. If you ever went swimming with me, you’d find me trying to dive into the pool like this:
Sometimes they would comment on how big I was compared to my sister. This would make me feel bad and I always felt like I was being fat-shamed. You prayed for me to be this way damnit! Surely, just allow God’s good works to manifest through me? But no, they wanted me to be healthier and that involved losing weight. And looking back now, I can accept that they wanted the best for me. They were exhibiting genuine care. I did eat too much. It was affecting my health and they wanted to help me through this.
However, there is still a fine line.
Fat shaming can often occur under the guise of genuine care. Where my family wanted to help me, some people just want to make you feel bad, which is essentially body-shaming. And no one really has a right to comment on other people’s bodies. It is none of your business.
But in this day and age where people always seem to have an opinion on something and more platforms to vocalize it, fat shaming has definitely become a thing.
Recently, actress Chloë Grace Moretz spoke out against a male co-star who criticized her weight. It happened on a set of a film when she was 15 and her on-screen partner was in his twenties. She said: “This guy that was my love interest was like, ‘I’d never date you in real life,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, you’re too big for me’ – as in, my size,” she said. “It was one of the only actors that ever made me cry on set.”
And many of us have experienced this in daily life, from our so called ‘friends’, family and even colleagues who think it’s okay to talk about somebody else’s appearance.
You can often tell this isn’t genuine when it’s not to help the person, but to make them feel bad about who they are. Instead of highlighting the health benefits of losing weight and getting into shape, like my parents did, they hope to dent your confidence.
And fat shaming can actually have negative consequences too. Making someone feel bad about their weight can affect their health.
According to a Refinery 29 article, recent research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association confirmed that fat-shaming does indeed exist within the medical community, and it’s physically and mentally harmful for patients.
Joan Chrisler, PhD, a professor of psychology at Connecticut College, spoke to the effects of fat-shaming from doctors: “Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming, in an attempt to motivate people to change their behaviour, is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers.”
Another study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, also found that a study found that fat-shaming can be linked to greater risk of other diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
What ends up actually happening is that fat-shaming affects your self-esteem. This in turn creates ‘weight bias internalisation’ which occurs when people internalise negative beliefs about themselves due to their weight. It can trigger all kinds of health issues.
And this isn’t right at all. In fact it can be seriously counter-productive and doesn’t do anything to help the person live a healthier lifestyle.
Supporting someone to lose weight should be done in love, of course with a few nudges here and there, but never with malice or to be rude.
Losing weight is a long and tedious journey. Often fret with setbacks and low times. It means letting go of bad eating habits that started years ago. Sometimes enabled by the same friends and family who are now calling for you to lose weight.
But it’s important to be mindful regardless. Body image is such a tricky area of life and as research has shown it can negatively affect almost everything, including health.
Be kind ya’ll, the world is cruel enough.
More on ‘fat-shaming’: