Fat Shaming and Body Shaming

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Fat shaming, also referred to as body shaming, is an act in which individuals are judged negatively based on their physical appearance. Generally, men and women are fat-shamed if they appear “overweight” or don’t fit the idyllic image of “thin and beautiful.” However, researchers note that thin-shaming is also a negative and form of judgement and bullying as well, although not as prevalent.

What is Fat Shaming?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, body shaming is the act or practice of humiliating a person based on their body type by making critical and/or mocking statements about their body shape and size.

Psychologists and academics specializing in media effects on the body and mind agree that body shaming and fat shaming has likely always been a problem in modern society to a degree. However, with the invention of the Internet and social media platforms, public commentary on all matters is at an all-time high; including bullying and shaming individuals for their weight and appearance.

Fat-Shaming Statistics:

Body-shaming statistics indicate that 94 percent of teenage girls have been body shamed. However, the practice isn’t exclusive to the female gender. Teen boys and men are subjected to thoughtless opinions and hurtful comments made as well. Nearly 65 percent of teens boys reported having been body shamed.

Like with many aspects of bullying, “keyboard courage” plays a big role in those who make hurtful and derogatory comments toward others online. By typing body-shaming comments to celebrities and strangers online, the individual feels as if they do not have much repercussion for their statements and words.

However, recent studies show body-shaming comments can leave lasting impressions on those who receive them; not just mentally, but physically. One study, although limited in its scope of participants, indicates that those with poor body image related to having been fat shamed repeatedly actually have higher levels of SKKS, which can increase the risk of heart and metabolic diseases.

The study examined participants of overweight women and the results were published in the medical journal Obesity, as reported by The Huffington Post.

The results indicated that those who had a negative perception of their weight due to body shaming and other negative stereotypes related to weight, were three times as likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and stroke, than in comparison to individuals with similar weights and body types who did not carry those same negative self-thoughts.

Overall the study indicated the internalization of body shame and weight bias is associated with poor health. Because the problem with fat shaming can lead to dire physical as well as mental health problems, it is important that this form of bullying be recognized as unacceptable, mental health professionals have said.

Why do people body shame others?

Academic studies of media and its effects on body image indicate we live in an image-heavy society online and in person (advertisements in magazines, newspapers, billboards, shopping windows, etc.) Because of this, technology has made a focus on appearance stronger than ever. Because our culture loves thin, whether it be in print ads, movies, music videos, etc., seeing something different isn’t considered fashionable.

In centuries past, it was actually the opposite. If people were overweight it was indicative of health because it meant the person had money to buy food and was eating well. This was a status symbol. Now, food is an easier commodity to come by in developed nations. Having the money to own exercise equipment or have a gym membership is the new status symbol. Thin is a symbol of wealth and fitness, according to researchers.

While obesity does bring its own health risks to an individual, in some ways body shaming can be just as detrimental to a person’s health, especially among impressionable teens and adolescents who struggle with self-esteem and confidence.

Ways to Combat Body Shaming:

For parents, it is important to focus on building a child’s inner self worth rather than focusing on the physical.

  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle for your children, but don’t put the primary focus on weight and outer beauty.
  • In addition, monitor your child’s social media usage and accounts. Step in when bullying and body-shaming is taking place.
  • Don’t allow your own children to be the bully.
  • Encourage teens to look up to realistic and inspiring every-day heroes.
  • Model empathy and encourage empathy in your children. There are many reasons people struggle with their weight. Many of which are health related and can be a constant battle for the individual. It is important to not shame people, but to especially not shame someone for something they have little control over.

Sources: Huffingtonpost.com, CNN.com, Vice.com