Apparently, some people still don’t understand what body shaming means. It has nothing to do with health or fitness. Healthy people don’t make life choices out of guilt, fear, or a desire to please others.
When celebrities proudly declare on national television that they like being shamed, we have a problem. Nobody should like being shamed. If they do, they need therapy.
Nobody should think they’re doing a friend or loved one favors by commenting on their appearance. Shaming involves nothing other than hypocrites judging those who don’t fit an ideal body type.
Take one of my college friends. A model. For real, people paid her money to wear their clothes in advertisements. Probably the most attractive person I’ve ever shared oxygen with. She never described being shamed as a pleasant experience, or thanked anyone for it.
My model friend once cried to me over coffee about her body. A lingerie company had rejected her. Why? Her butt was one inch too big. Someone had actually wrapped measuring tape around each part of her.
Thousands of young women envied my friend’s physique. By all standards, she was gorgeous.
“That’s weird,” I said. “Who can tell the difference between two asses by one inch?”
My comment didn’t help. So I tried again. “I mean, you’ve got a great ass.” And I was telling the absolute truth. It was the kind of ass that stopped men in the street. The kind of ass that solicits catcalls.
But this ass wasn’t good enough for a lingerie brand.
My point? Even professionals don’t enjoy being shamed. Here was my friend, a practical stick, tearing up over a single inch. And she had no reason to feel bad. If one inch can send a demi-goddess into an emotional spiral, imagine what happens when an ordinary person hears that kind of criticism from friends, family, and spouses.
It’s healthy to enlist life partners in your fitness goals. Let’s say a married couple decides to go on a diet. They exercise together and decide on meal plans. They buy matching Fitbits. Maybe they hold each other accountable for their daily goals. “Honey, did you reach your 10,000 steps today?” How cute. Couples do that all the time.
Let’s say you hire a personal trainer to keep you on track. Your personal trainer reminds you about your fitness goals and helps you attain them. They don’t roll their eyes if you haven’t lost “all the weight” by spring break. A personal trainer doesn’t call you a fat ass or a failure. They want to create a positive atmosphere at their gym.
What’s not healthy? Treating your friends and loved ones like personal trainers and nutritionists. Asking them to berate you for skipping workouts. There’s a big difference between someone encouraging healthy choices and giving you the side eye if you order cheesecake.
Your husband probably isn’t an expert on fitness or nutrition. Neither is your dad. Or your mom. Or your girlfriend.
Why put them in control of that?
I’m not exactly a saint. If my partner started eating Big Macs every day and gained 20 pounds, I’d have a problem. I might say something. We’d probably have an earnest conversation. I’m sure he would do the same for me. We exercise together. We talk about nutrition. If one of us finds out that a particular food has a lot of sodium, we let the other know.
But I would never give someone else control over my health. I’ll be damned if I ever let anyone call me a fat ass every time I walk into the kitchen. I don’t care if I’m trying to lose weight. That’s abusive behavior. Who would give someone permission to act like that?
My parents body shamed me constantly growing up. They put me on diets. Took photographs of me at various weights and posted them on the fridge. At one point, they even stashed a motion-detecting pig that oinked at me whenever I opened the pantry.
My dad referred to me as a buffalo in front of company. My mom rolled her eyes every time I took a bite of food. She screamed at me one afternoon because she thought I’d drank an entire gallon of milk. Sure, she apologized after I explained that the milk had gone bad, so I’d poured it down the sink. But the torpedo had hit. And my self esteem was sunk for the rest of the day, if not the month. That’s body shaming.
The silly part? I was never overweight. Not even close. My parents just thought I should look thinner. When I turned 12, they bought me fitness equipment. For my 13th birthday, I got an actual cardio machine. They were so smug when they presented it to me.
They got more than they bargained for. A few months later, my parents did a complete 180. “You should eat more,” my dad started saying.
My mom would play backup singer. “You really should,” she’d say. “We’re worried about you.” This coming from the woman who’d put me on an all vegetable diet four summers ago.
Why were my parents so worried? Because I was growing a little taller, and puberty had started. The opposite sex was taking interest in me. They couldn’t convince me I was at risk of looking chubby anymore. So they took the next best strategy. Skinny shaming.
When I was fourteen, my mom presented Polaroids of me from three years ago. “You used to look so healthy,” she said. They were the same photos she’d once used to convince me to lose weight.
The truth? My weight has always been stable — despite whatever doubt happens inside my head. Fortunately, the fat and skinny shaming didn’t send me down the well of anorexia or bulimia, like so many others. Pure luck, in my opinion. Sure, I go through sensitive phases. I still look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I’m thin enough. Like it or not, good or bad, that’s probably never going away. I just manage it.
In high school I ran track and cross-country — against my parents’ advice. They thought it would kill me. In college, I gravitated to backpacking, hiking, and kayaking. By then, they finally stopped caring.
It’s a shame that I’ve lived an active lifestyle, eaten healthy, and never had to go on a “diet,” and yet men and women like me still worry about one day suddenly becoming “fat,” or unappealing. That’s just insane.
Everyone has their own fitness and weight goals. You can always change those. And it’s always nice to share those goals with friends and family. But it’s nonsense to let someone shame you into a healthy lifestyle.
In fact, that’s a heavy sack of bullshit. Nobody responds to shame. If anything, feelings of guilt and inadequacy trigger unhealthy choices. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your father, husband, wife, or sister. Don’t ever let anyone talk to you like you’re lazy, fat, or stupid. Fuck those people. And fuck anyone who tells you it’s okay. Or that it works. It doesn’t.