The Body Is Not an Apology’s goal is to share the myriad ways human bodies unshackle the box of “beauty” and fling it wide open for all of us to access. Our goal is to redefine the unapologetic, radically amazing magnificence of EVERY BODY on this planet. When we do, we change the world! Join the movement and become a subscriber today! bit.ly/NoBodiesInvisible.
We’ve all done it — commenting on a friend’s weight whenever it changes. When they lose weight, we say they look amazing and to keep up the good work, and when they gain weight, we assume they’re going through a hard time or there’s something wrong. Why are we so fixated on the idea of weight gain or loss in others, and why are these assumptions so dangerous?
The Dangers of Body Shaming
It’s estimated that upwards of 30 million suffer from some form of eating disorder at some point in their lifetime — anorexia, bulimia or some less definable eating disorder. We tend to focus so much of our energy on how we look and how others around us look that we forget how our opinions affect other people.
Body shaming is defined as mocking or criticizing someone because of their size or body shape — and we’ve probably all seen it, both in the media and in our daily lives. It was even in the news recently, with a former Playboy model body-shaming a woman in the shower area in her local gym. This case made the news because she took a picture and posted it to the social media app Snapchat, and it serves to reinforce the dangers of body shaming.
In this case, the victim was body shamed because of her size, but the former model didn’t stop to think that she was in the gym because she was trying hard to get healthy or change her appearance. People are shamed for being overweight but may avoid the gym or other places where they could work to change their exercise habits because they’re shamed for even having the audacity to walk in the door.
It becomes especially dangerous for people who suffer from or are recovering from eating disorders. What seems like an offhanded comment to you could trigger dangerous habits for some people.
You Might Be Shaming and Not Even Know It
You might think that you’re being a supportive friend by complimenting someone on their weight loss or encouraging them to stop calling themselves fat, but many of these phrases can actually be construed as body shaming.
This isn’t limited to fat shaming — skinny shaming is just as bad. Telling your super skinny friend that she needs to eat more because she’s too small is just as bad as offering unsolicited diet tips to a friend you consider overweight.
If someone asks for advice on how to get moving or how to make healthier choices in their diet, feel free to offer your advice — but don’t hand out unsolicited advice or make comments about someone’s weight, no matter how much or how little they weigh.
More Radical Reads: The Problem with Poodle Science: A Video about Weight and Health
You Don’t Know What’s Happening in Someone Else’s Life
When it comes right down to it, unless someone has confided in you, you likely have no idea what is going on in their life and why someone is gaining or losing weight. A variety of health issues can cause changes in weight — you may assume someone is gaining weight because they’re eating junk or being lazy, but they could be dealing with a thyroid problem that makes it impossible to lose weight. They might also be recovering from an eating disorder — gaining weight in cases like these is difficult enough, and comments about how they look like they’ve put on weight can be all it takes to trigger a relapse.
On the other side of the coin, you might compliment someone on their weight loss only to find out later that they’re losing weight due to an eating disorder, or because they can’t absorb the necessary calories and nutrients because of a medical condition.
You have no way of knowing what’s going on in someone’s personal life — whether they’re losing or gaining weight because they want to or because they’re dealing with something they don’t want to discuss with anyone.
More Radical Reads: Unlearning How To Be Thin: Weight Is Not An Indicator of Health
Be Supportive, Not Judgmental
We have so many different things impacting our body image. Photoshopped images of the ideal “perfect” body constantly bombard us — both men and women are subject to this. Instead of commenting on someone’s weight, pick a different topic — comment on their new hair style or how awesome their top looks, or something else that doesn’t have anything to do with weight. Body shaming is a pervasive part of our culture, so it’s up to us to change it.
Don’t perpetuate the culture of body shaming — promote a culture of body positivity instead.
[Feature Image: A photo of a person who has wavy dark hair. They are wearing a long white shirt. They are looking downward sadly. On their left is a person with long brown hair and are wearing a purple shirt. On their right is a person with a white shirt.]