OPINION | Rising tide of body shaming

Tanvi Bobba, Staff Columnist

Social media teaches us to constantly strive to fit with the ever changing beauty standards. (Shivani Bondada)

“You’re pretty for a plus-sized girl.” 

“Did you lose weight? You look so good now!”

“Eat more, you look like a skeleton.” 

These unnecessary remarks are examples of body shaming, meant to humiliate another person about their body size or shape. 

Social media teaches us to constantly strive to fit with the ever changing beauty standards, and when we do not, we instantly become the targets of body shamers. While every case of body shaming is unacceptable, not all body shaming looks the same. 

One of the most prevalent types of body shaming is fat shaming. In 2013, blogger Melissa McEwan created #FatMicroaggressions, which prompted hundreds of Twitter users to share their stories about the inappropriate comments directed at them. 

To name just a few, @CyV was notified at a job interview to come back after they lose weight, @loniemc was told that fat people are not capable of pursuing higher education and @queyntegerhl had repeatedly been asked how they are a larger size even though they are vegetarian. 

Uncalled for behaviors like these have significant harmful effects on health. Stress caused by fat-shaming comments can result in overweight individuals eating more and gaining weight due to not feeling in control of their eating. 

A study that looked at 73 women, both overweight and average weight, found that overweight women who watched a stigmatizing video consumed three times as many calories than overweight women who watched a neutral video as well as significantly more than average weight women regardless of video type.

Another common form of body shaming is skinny shaming, which also stems from society’s push towards idolizing supermodel thin bodies. However, unlike the “lose weight” mantra of the fat-shaming community, skinny shaming consists of the constantly conflicting ideas of being too skinny as well as not being skinny enough.

Advertisements promoting weight loss plans and miracle diet pills are regularly popping up on the internet and television, catering to the toxic idea that being fat is bad. When fat individuals begin to self-loathe due to fat shaming, they start to villainize skinny people because they appear to have an easier time being accepted by society. However, this is not always true. Skinny people are also often bullied for their weight and accused of having eating disorders, resulting in self-doubt

The concerns of those who are skinny shamed are often invalidated due to claims such as “skinny shaming isn’t real.” In the end, unrealistic body standards create a perpetuating cycle of confidence issues amongst most people regardless of their size. 

Different bodies work uniquely, and it is insensitive to ridicule people based on their appearance, whether they are fat, thin, or of average build.

Regardless of an individual’s weight, body shaming can cause body dysmorphia. From 2006 to today, cases of body dysmorphia disorder rose from 2.3% to 7% of the general American population. Unfortunately, 78% of individuals with body dysmorphic disorder contemplate suicide.  

When it comes to body shaming, even fit individuals are not spared. In 2019, fitness star Cassey Ho, founder of the popular YouTube channel Blogilates, decided to go on a 90-day journey to cleanse her diet and become stronger after suffering from weight gain and despair from the stress of running a business. 

Although Ho emphasized that this journey was purely for herself and her own happiness, many of the responses she received were negative. Followers stated that her post “idolizes thin bodies and demonizes larger bodies,” and that “there is nothing body positive about” her intent. 

Ho claimed she was immediately labeled as a body positive influencer when she first entered the community simply because she did not fit the mold of the average fitness instructor; now, she is being shamed for wanting to prioritize her mental health by taking strides towards feeling comfortable in her body. 

However, skinny and fit shaming are by no means simply the opposite of fat shaming. While skinny and fit people are constantly represented in media, obese characters are largely depicted as comedic, lonely or freaks in the rare instances they are shown on screen. They are barely ever portrayed as successful, action stars or romantic leads the same way skinny and fit characters are. This is ultimately dehumanizing for multitudes of people. 

Fat, skinny and fit shaming are all awful forms of body shaming that can have lifelong effects on a person’s mental and physical health. Respecting everyone’s bodies as well as creating an open discussion on body shaming is critical to establishing a safe and comfortable environment for all.