Fat Shaming & Shaping Body Image
Throughout middle school I was one of the largest girls in my grade. I exercised regularly, but still could not lose weight. I have since grown and my body somehow thinned out, but I am still haunted by memories of my friends telling me what to eat at lunch and convincing me not to snack. As a senior in high school, I still see my body as a stack of enormous fruits; my head is an orange, my middle an apple, and my thighs form a giant pear.
My eating habits fluctuate between binge eating and rarely eating. Memories of my middle school friends teasing me about my weight are not the only factor that has led to my unhealthy eating habits and poor self-esteem. Society has turned being fat into a fate worse than death. Fat shaming can be found on every magazine cover, in every social media site, in celebrity gossip, and even in our daily conversations.
What Is Fat Shaming?
Fat shaming is the process of oppressing and demoralizing people because of their weight. Sometimes fat shaming occurs in a straightforward manner, just like when my friends called my sister and me “the piggies.” However, fat shaming is frequently more indirect, and the person doing the shaming may not even realize what they are doing. Comments such as “you have such a nice face, though” imply that everything but the person’s face is ugly. My grandmother still says to me, “you aren’t fat, you’re gorgeous.” Her main intent is to give me confidence, but she doesn’t realize that she propagates the notion that someone who is fat can’t be beautiful.
Fat Shaming Is All Around Us
We see fat shaming almost everywhere we look. Covers of magazines proudly proclaim, “The New You is Right Around the Corner: Lose 30 lbs in Just 3 Months!” Why do I become someone new when I lose weight? These magazines imply that the “new you” is somehow better, something you should be striving to become, but why can’t you be happy and confident in the body you have now? Lately, some magazines and clothing companies have begun to use “plus size models” and create “plus size clothing lines.”
Are Clothing Sizes Related To Fat Shaming?
We know that these models and clothing lines usually range between sizes four and six. This means that almost everyone is “plus sized” and being put into this category reaffirms ideas that people with healthy weights are overweight. Thus, these companies that attempt to “diversify” their models and clothing lines are in fact contributing to the demoralization of women around the globe. Often these “plus size” campaigns inspire women, especially adolescents, to develop eating disorders. Earlier this year, I overheard a few freshmen at my high school complain that they were the same size as the “plus size” models in an online clothing department. One girl said something along the lines of, “I’m way bigger than that model but I always thought I was skinny.”
Related Article: Diversity in the Modelling World
How Do We Prevent Fat Shaming & Negative Self Image?
On the bright side, there are things we can do to prevent fat shaming from becoming more prevalent. Awareness is gaining momentum, but we must make sure that this isn’t just a short-lived trend. An easy way to help put an end to fat shaming is to call people out for making derogatory comments. Comments like, “You are so brave for wearing a bikini” need to be addressed by either pulling the person aside or calling them out on the spot. Remember, we don’t always need to be polite when telling someone not to fat shame; fat shaming can lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and more, but it certainly does not lead to weight loss!
Another way to terminate fat shaming is to demand that magazines and clothing brands diversify the bodies of their models. You can Tweet at clothing brands, insisting they create clothing lines for all body shapes and sizes without labeling them “plus sized.”
Positivity Is Stronger Than Fat Shaming
Finally, we can all defeat fat shaming through body positivity. Understanding how beautiful and normal our bodies are will allow us to help others be body positive. Body positivity increases self-esteem and high self-esteem has an enormous number of benefits – ranging from health advantages to social perks. If “plus size” models are considered fat, then we’re all fat and we should just revel in our fatness together as beautiful and normal human beings.