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Body Shaming Is Never Okay

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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.

Body shaming is never okay

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.

body shaming is never 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.


{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Rose April 23, 2016, 11:45

    Jake and I have both seen the other side of the equation as naturally skinny people. While the comments we receive can’t ever begin to compare to what overweight individuals deal with on a regular basis, it’s still ridiculous. I’m not sure why so many people feel the need to comment on other people’s bodies and health related choices (working out, not working out, eating healthy, not eating healthy, etc.), especially when it’s unsolicited and there is no inherent danger (i.e. eating disorder). The internet only makes the shaming phenomenon worse.

    • Natashalh April 24, 2016, 12:39

      It is pretty crazy how people feel like it’s okay to criticize what other people are doing, particularly total strangers or people they barely know! “Why are you eating junk food?” “Why are you only eating salads – you should just have fun!” etc., etc., no matter what someone is doing or what they look like it seems like someone else has an unsolicited opinion about it. Sorry to hear you and Jake have both gotten comments about being naturally thin. His hight makes him seem even more thin, so I can imagine he gets even more comments from people!

  • BeadedTail April 22, 2016, 05:34

    I agree that body shaming is never okay but I don’t necessarily agree with your statement that someone should ‘get fit’ or ‘work out’ to be happier. The idea that someone can’t be happy regardless of their current shape or situation causes a lot of self negativity. Often times people do lose weight or get fit and still aren’t happy so it’s much more than that. Thinking that someone will be happy when they’re a certain size or can lift a certain amount of weight isn’t always the case. Regardless, there is more than enough self hatred these days due to social media and media in general that body shaming by others especially those close to us is just downright cruel and uncalled for.

    • Natashalh April 22, 2016, 08:15

      I was waiting for someone to comment on that. =) I totally agree that people can be happy regardless of their shape or size and that they don’t need to fit someone else’s idea of being “fit.” I wasn’t really sure how to phrase it differently without writing a paragraph! I’ve been asked by a lot of friends and family members what I do/how I eat/etc. I’m not going to tell them “You’re perfect how you are! Why look for something else?” if someone expresses an interesting in moving or eating differently. I’ll share what I can and encourage them. At the same time, I don’t go around telling people I know “You should really go to the gym” or “you need to start running,” etc. because it’s going to make you so happy! Because that clearly isn’t true for everyone and it’s also rude. Does that make a little more sense?

      • BeadedTail April 22, 2016, 10:40

        I know you’d never say those things to anyone! Your heart is in the right place and you want people to be healthy and you’d do everything you can to help them be that way. I’m coming from a place where I’ve never had the ideal body (according to others’ standards, not always mine) so it’s taken me years to realize I can be happy and more importantly I deserve to be happy whether or not I work out. I’m not saying I’m a lump on a log because I’m not, I do like to be active but I’ve also been in a place where I never felt like I did enough or was enough so therefore I didn’t deserve to be happy. Thankfully I’m not in that mindset anymore and I’m happier than I’ve ever been and yes, you do inspire me more than you know! I just know you’re not the type of person who would say you can’t be happy if you don’t ‘get fit’ and ‘work out’ so it kind of surprised me to see that. For a minute it brought be back down to that place I’ve fought to get out of so I wanted to speak up so it didn’t fester in me as it would’ve in the past. Yeah, I overthink things – wasn’t that one of your prompts? LOL! Sorry for the long reply to your reply! 🙂

        • Natashalh April 22, 2016, 11:22

          I totally hear you. I grew up in SC and refused to wear shorts for many years because I was embarrassed to show my legs, just for one example. I am not tall or “long and lean,” which magazines will tell you is “ideal.” It took me a really long time to accept that and realize that will never be me. Obviously I’ll never be tall, but I’m also just not structured to be that “lean” looking, either! I have big hips – my pelvis is wide and that’s not going to change. According to some ‘healthy weight’ charts, it’s ‘ideal’ to weigh 20+ pounds less than I do for my height. Forget that! I’m not going to loose 20 pounds to feel validated by some chart on the internet. It’s a shame that everyone is so bombarded by advertising designed to make us all feel bad, regardless of our body type! Thin women feel bad because they’re not “curvy,” curvy women are made to feel bad because they’re not thin. It goes on and on. People always deserve to be happy, and I believe there is enough happiness in the universe for everyone. I’m also pretty sick of how I keep seeing people saying “I’m so excited for this milestone, but I’m definitely still a work in progress,” as if we can’t be proud of what we’ve already accomplished. I’m not frustrated with the people who say that – I’m frustrated with the culture and atmosphere that make us feel like that is necessary.

          With regards to physical activity, if someone is happy with whatever they do (or don’t do!), then that’s what’s important, and what makes one person happy is a sure fire way to make others miserable. I can’t stand running, for example. It makes me so incredibly miserable. I tried for several years to run consistently because people kept saying I “should” and that it was good for me/I’d grow to like it/etc. Nope! I’m pretty sure I dislike it even more now than ever before. Movement is definitely not a one size fits all thing and people should be thankful for their bodies and proud of the amazing things they can accomplish, whatever that may be. For some people walking around the house unassisted is something they worked hard for and are justifiably proud of – not running marathons shouldn’t detract for their accomplishment.

          If you thought your reply was long, what does that make mine? =p Clearly I have a lot to say and am annoyed with popular culture, and with how it seems to be getting worse (as evidenced by increasing rates of eating disorders in men, selling more grooming products to men, etc.).

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