CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
Fat shaming is a very common thing nowadays that has the intention to blame, offend, and belittle a person who is 'plus size', fat, or overweight. As mentioned, there are many words to describe the weight of one person, therefore these words have an enormous effect on the way we see ourselves in ratio to how other people see us.
What do we need to know about fat-shaming?
The way fat-shaming started to become a real thing, came with welcoming and developing ways of beauty standards and one’s image in public into our daily basis lives. Magazines started to introduce weight loss diets and a set of rules to stop eating what they call 'junk food'.
Firstly, fat-shaming is within the body-shaming context, and all is centralized with the image of our body and how the body is 'supposed' to look. 'What do I look like this?' 'What are people looking at me like that?' 'We eat the same amount of food, but my friend never gains weight, I always do.". These sentences are extremely common regards body image and/or weight gaining.
Secondly, the problem with fat shaming is that there is space for it to happen. Hold on the horses... let it be explained with an example! We all know Winnie the Pooh, right?! Every time Winnie the Pooh looked at himself in the mirror, he only saw his love for his body, and it always remembered him of his favourite sweet snack: honey! With that being said, fat-shaming starts with people who do not love themselves and they start praising other people for being happy with their bodies.
When fat was, in reality, the fashion.
Let us go in retrospect, being curve and overweight showed good health of the woman who will bring healthy children to the community at the time. Italian Art of the 16th-17th century was one of the finest arts which preached and expressed into art the curviness and body shape of many women. The Fitzwilliam Museum of the University of Cambridge has a gallery with paintings of how the body image was seen back then.
Another perspective gained from the expression of art in paintings is where the only woman was being painted naked and the man glanced at them for their beauty. However, the world has developed, and evolution has made us have freedom and show ourselves as we are. Which then leads to a rise in comparison and shame.
Being fat was in back in 77', but why the change of heart?! How did people forget about the previous trends and ended up hating them? The world has had only one important thing that we do not have nowadays: the ability to accept. What is being said over protests or public figures such as singer Lizzo and model Ashley Graham is about accepting that this type of body exists, the freedom of choice in our lives.
Consequences of body shaming.
Fat shaming has many serious consequences which are even related to putting our lives at risk. Many people use fat-shaming or the way an overweight person looks back at them as a boomerang. Trying to understand and empathise with these people pops up a question: "Do they think we do not know how we look like, or how much we weigh?!". The tendency of people trying to use the way we look to get back at us is spreading day by day. The way fat-shaming shapes itself in harm to us is physical, emotional, and importantly, mental.
According to CBS Report, obesity has had many health issues contributions such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and hypertension. There is a saying: "It is not what you say, it is how you say it!", meaning that, yes, being overweight has its threats and risks, but to stop or to prevent gaining weight has not to be using offensive words, shaming, or even attacking. Fat shaming is a phobia that certain people fear fatness. People have phobias about numbers or cutlery, but there is no shaming of numbers or cutlery. Double standards are a common thing when we discuss such sensitive topics.
Fat-shaming does not lead to positive results, thus if a mother has an overweight child, shaming the child is not going to motivate the child to decide to lose weight. Losing or gaining weight has to come from inside, to want it, to desire it, and to want to motivate oneself to go forward. The problem is that there is a tendency of changing the subject to looks and not celebrating the personality and the values a person has. Body positivity all along, until someone does not fit within our frame of thinking about how someone looks.
Fat-shaming does impact everyone’s life and it is generally accepted that if someone is fat, the person does not have self-control or awareness. Fat stigma includes health risks as much as social risks. Levels of people turning into using racial slurs, hatred, and violence, which are extremely negative for the community we live in as well as the global society.
How can we act against fat-shaming?
Here is a short story of a student in the UK and how she dealt with fat shaming. She wrote: " I come from a culture where once in a while I would meet my aunties they would emphasize how much weight I had gained. After moving to the UK, men were the ones who would usually say to me "You are fat anyway.".
These experiences have matured me, even without me noticing it. I then went home and started reflecting on who are these people, what role they have in my life, and why I have to be from another person's perspective. They were/are no one. They do not get to spend time with me or even to understand my world."
The acts we need to undertake should start within ourselves and then reflect on others. We cannot praise body positivity if our mind has not the same mindset. Therefore we start challenging this stigma by strengthening our personality and lifestyle. Accepting is always the first step of a challenging journey.