Fat or body shaming is a form bullying (these terms are used interchangeably). We all know bullying is not ok, but somehow body shaming does not yet fall under the same category of seriousness.
If you aren’t sure what I mean by fat shaming, here are a few examples:
- Your [insert any disease here] would get better if you lost weight.
- I’m too fat to do (insert literally any activity here).
- You have such a pretty face. If you would just lose weight.
- Disgusted looks from other diners received when at a restaurant eating anything at all.
- People loudly complaining how fat they are when they are the same size or smaller than you.
There are many things you can do to shut down body shaming and/or add to the conversation of why it is not ok.
It depends on your personality, the amount of time and energy you want to spend talking to the person that shamed you and so on.
I encourage you to look at the following list and choose a couple of things you could start doing now….not when you are body shamed the next time…Yes, sorry, it is a matter of time. We all get body shamed.
Know it’s never about you, but the issues the person has with fat and their relationship with their body. The person is mirroring internalised weight stigma and has their own issues with weight.
Know that the person means well.
Figure out what losing weight is code for….usually it is to improve behaviours around your eating, exercise and other lifestyle factors that contribute to your health. People using this ‘code’ have missed the point about health.
Know that is not best practise to lose weight or recommend losing weight. Focusing on weight is unhelpful and harmful.
Remind yourself that pursuing weight loss actually makes you heavier, so there is no point if you desire a smaller body.
Remind yourself there is nothing wrong with your body.
Allow yourself feel the emotions body shaming stirs up and tell the person what you are feeling and why. You can tell the person that their comments hurt you.
Take your anger out with some exercise (punching bags are amazing for this!), gardening, run or anything that allows you to get out of your head and think clearly.
Feel what’s going on. Work out why the body shamer’s comment made you upset. Was the comment really about your appearance? Or it is something much deeper like how you have a fear of not being liked or how you are really annoyed at your boss for not giving you a pay rise?
Remember self-kindness. Be kind to yourself and the person that made you feel bad about yourself.
Talk/debrief with a supportive body positive person or friend and have a rant.
Surround yourself with body positive people everywhere – in person and online…some people may only have online options…either way, online sources can really make a difference.
If you feel like you want to speak up about the body shamer’s recommendations, you could say something like, what concerns you about my weight? Do you have evidence to support this?
If you feel up to it, talk about how hurtful/harmful their words were. Put the focus on how you feel not “you did this or you made me feel”…Use lots of “I feel like “X” when you said that” as a way to decreases blame and confrontation.
Point the body shamer in the direction of body positive research, health professionals or advocates.
In the doctor’s office, if weight loss is prescribed, ask what is it about your weight that concerns them, how would they treat a person in a smaller body and then ask to be treated the same way.
If you are not feeling like engaging with the fat shamer, ignore their comments and move on. It’s ok to not engage and preserve the little energy you have from fighting body/fat-shaming many times a day. Prioritise your self-care by choosing your battles. Let it go. It’s ok not to confront the issue. The person may not be in the mindset to hear your perspective and may be up for a challenging discussion where they really don’t want to hear your perspective. If you are not sure, ask if they would like to hear why their comments affected you. You’ll gauge relatively quickly if they are in the right mindset to engage with you in a respectful and open-minded manner. Be mindful that not everybody is aware that they are body shaming.
Do something that makes you feel good. Prioritising self-care in moments like this will help you to stay focused and care for yourself well and keep doing the things that matter to you.
Reflect on the situation and think about what you would do differently. Practise what you’d say so it becomes easier to speak up.
Limit your exposure with the shamer, as not everyone is aware or open to changing their behaviour. Self-preservation is important.
Focus on a body part that you like.
Keep doing what you are doing…You are an important part of changing society’s perspective on bodies and body diversity. Keep up the great work!