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I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to blog purely about my opinion. Have I? Well, if I have it was a long time ago. Anyway, I recently saw something on social media that got me pretty irritated on behalf of a total stranger and made me decide to write about how body shaming is never okay, regardless of a person’s shape or size. Seriously.
I believe it’s time to move beyond realizing that “fat shaming” is inappropriate and acknowledge that all body shaming is hurtful.
As people who know me realize, I’m a big fan of going to the gym. I do believe in encouraging people to ‘work out’ in order to become happier, healthier, and realize their own amazing potential, but I don’t think that doing it by berating and belittling people is helpful or correct. I believe people should focus on how they feel, not how society tells us we “should” look, and that motivation from a place of love and acceptance, not shame, is incredibly important. Being physically healthy and active is important to me since I lost my dad due to a heart attack. I see time spent at the gym as a wonderful investment in myself and my family.
I follow a lot of gym rats on social media and frequent various websites with articles aimed at gym-goers, and I have been appalled by the number of comments I’ve seen from people criticizing individuals, particularly women, who decide to work out. I’ve read things such as: telling a woman who shared “before” and “after” photos that she looked way better before because she was soft and feminine/didn’t have visible muscles then; saying that all cyclists and spin-class enthusiasts have monstrous thunder thighs and giant manly calves; and even a discussion about how women should be careful not to run or even walk too much in order to avoid becoming “too bulky.” (????? Walking can make you ‘bulky’??)
I also know from personal experience that comments like these don’t just stay online – people will say them to you face. I’ve been made fun of by former coworkers and classmates for my arms, legs, abs, butt, and even weight in general. A one-time roommate looked at me in horror and asked “You’re going to eat the whole thing?” when I was in the kitchen having a sandwich that consisted of whole grain bread and freshly-ground, all-natural peanut butter. From the look on her face, it might as well have been an entire Subway catering tray. This wasn’t the only time the roommate feel like some heifer-and-a-half, which seems extra ridiculous since I’m a healthy weight.
The same things happen in reverse to “skinny” people. Some people are just naturally skinny! Do you know how tired they get of hearing “Must be a nice problem to have?” or “Why don’t you just eat a doughnut?” I do joke with my husband about his “problem” of having trouble gaining weight, but I know it does frustrate him. My sister, who worked diligently to become a healthy BMI after losing our dad, is constantly frustrated by people telling her she’s “so skinny now.” Sometimes it literally makes her cry – I know because she’s called me in tears because people were badgering her about her weight.
I know at least a couple blog readers are also naturally thin folk s- I’m sure they’ve also either been made fun of, told to go eat a sandwich, or just generally felt bad about their body shape before, too. Tall people get shamed, short people get shamed, men, women, boys, and girls get body shamed, but it’s not okay.
Apparently my visible arm muscles disgust some people, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you don’t personally find someone’s body to be enviable, desirable, attractive, or whatever else. You can still treat them with decency and respect. Yes, even on the internet! You can even be kind to people on the internet, too. We don’t actually live in some bizarre world with a zero-sum body confidence economy where someone else has to feel bad in order for you to feel good. It may seem that way sometimes, but that’s not how things truly are.
If you’re seriously concerned that a friend has an illness or actual eating disorder, please do try to help them.
If someone you know wants to loose weight and you can offer advice and encouragement, go for it, but there is a big difference between being compassionate and shaming someone for their body, regardless of what their body looks like.
Body shaming is never okay – no matter what.
Natasha is a former classroom teacher turned WAHM. She also is a registered yoga teacher and certified life coach. She shares her passion for education with craft tutorials and free printables. She also shares her experience moving through grief after losing a parent and passion for positive parenting. Learn more about Natasha and where she’s been featured.