“You really should lose some weight. You look too fat.”
Did that get your attention? I hope so. You’d never dream of telling someone that, right? I hope not. But recently, I had someone tell me something (almost) exactly the same thing. “You really should gain some weight. You look too thin.” When I heard that for the first time, it felt like a sucker punch to the gut. I usually feel pretty good about the shape I’m in, but that comment took the wind out of my sails. Then, it got me thinking. If you wouldn’t tell someone they look too fat, you probably also shouldn’t tell them they look too thin. Judgment goes both ways.
In the past two months, I’ve had two people (neither of whom know me personally) say something along those lines. They are entitled to their opinions, of course – and after working in social media for sixteen years, I know that people will say things behind the veil of internet anonymity they would never say to your face. I’ll even give them the benefit of the doubt and pretend their comments were out of genuine concern, but that post prompted me to think about something I bet they had never considered. It’s called SKINNY SHAMING.
If think it doesn’t exist, just google “Skinny Shaming”and look at the images that pop up on Google. I’ve included some of them here. Just ask yourself if it would be OK to post something similar if overweight were the issue instead of underweight. Just because our society at large has a weight problem, it has become socially acceptable to make those that don’t have that problem feel like outsiders.
Most of the time my weight is within normal range, but there have also been times it has dipped below what the charts define as “normal”. So, I’ve experienced this firsthand. It always amazes me how free people are to tell you “You’re so skinny” or “eat a cheeseburger” but they would never dare to tell someone overweight “you’re looking a little fat these days” or “eat a salad”.
Of course there are always the backhanded compliments too. You know, the insults disguised as flattery, like “You’re such a stick!” or “someone should feed you!”. Those are usually followed by “you should consider yourself lucky” or “I wish I had your problem”. Should I tell them I also don’t eat sugar, I try to eat clean 80% or more of the time and I work out almost daily? It’s hard to know if that hard work or “luck” and I wouldn’t call it a “problem”.
People make all sorts of assumptions about skinny people. The most common assumption is that they don’t eat, just as the common assumption is that if someone is overweight they assume they eat too much – Which isn’t always the case either. Assumptions…judgments, they come in all shapes. We should all uplift and support each other, not judge. And in the context of this message, weight is irrelevant.
As a health and fitness coach, I deal with underweight women who struggle to put on muscle tone, recovering anorexics/bulimics AND those that struggle with needing to lose weight. Being a coach to top mass gainers, I feel there is unnecessary body shaming going on out there in the world. You never know what someone is struggling with or what their situation is. What if, just WHAT if you made a “you should eat a burger” comment to someone who is working really hard to put ON weight, to add muscle and just simply can’t? Can you imagine what what would do to her self esteem? It has the same type of demoralizing blow as telling someone struggling to lose weight that they look fat.
“It’s quite frustrating that people think it’s OK to ask, “You’ve lost weight! Are you sick? Eat a burger!” I’d never walk up to anyone and comment on something that might be a sore spot. It’s like me asking, “You look a little heavier today. Are you depressed?” — Renee M.
In recent months I’ve heard women call say that women with curves are “real women” – as if those without them are imaginary women? Or that “Men like women with a little meat on their bones”. I know that MY appeal to men isn’t what motivates me to take care of myself and I don’t judge my value based on that.. The media perpetuates it. Skinny shaming seems to be accepted in our culture today. Even Meghan Trainor makes reference to “skinny bitches” in her song All About the Bass. Meghan, if you haven’t noticed, women come in all shapes and sizes. We are all beautiful in our own ways. Does being skinny automatically make you a bitch?
Just food for thought.