Enough is Enough – And More Reasons to Hold Your Tongue

I sit here wondering how to channel my thoughts into something constructive for this post.  But I can’t, because I am so unbelievably frustrated with the pervasiveness of body shaming.

Have you ever been going through your day, minding your own business, when someone makes an intrusive comment about your body?  “You look too skinny – are you eating enough?” or “Wow, you’ve really gained weight!”

I have.  And far too often.

Just last week, celebrity news outlets reported that Playboy model Dani Mathers secretly took a photo of a naked woman, showering in the gym.  She mocked this woman’s body and posted this on her social media account for millions to see.  Needless to say, a criminal investigation is now underway.

To think this is an isolated incident is naïve.  Negative body talk and shaming is a common occurrence.  My own Facebook poll quickly revealed the comments friends and I have had to hear:

At the rate you eat, I’m surprised you’re not fatter…

You’re looking really chubby…I can see the swelling in your face

Don’t let yourself go, otherwise I can see you getting huge!

I wouldn’t wear colored pants if I were you…they draw too much attention to your legs…

You were more attractive when you were 20 lbs lighter…

*Real comments, posted anonymously.  Permission requested prior to sharing these comments.

The hot seat only gets hotter when you’re a dietitian. There’s constant scrutiny over every food choice you make or every workout you miss.  You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been told “I’m glad you’re not a fat dietitian, otherwise I wouldn’t trust you”. 

What really puzzles me is this: under what circumstances would you ever discuss something so personal and so casually?  Would you ever casually ask someone how many bowel movements they’ve had a day?  Probably not, unless you’re a dietitian – then that’s just any given Monday.

Making unwelcomed comments about someone’s weight and size is offensive, crosses personal boundaries, and is simply inappropriate.

You’re looking a little thick around the middle these days…

Oh! When are you due? You’re not? Sorry, it’s just that you used to be so thin. You’re not going to the gym anymore?

Whoa! There’s a whole lot of padding going on there!

You’ve lost some weight – you look great! (Stress-related weight loss following a divorce)

Aren’t you supposed to be losing weight and not gaining it?  Your wedding is two weeks away!

It’s easy to think about letting these comments slide but I urge you not to.  They are not harmless remarks.  These are comments that err on the side of bullying.  They highlight the fat stigma and thin privilege that exists in society today.   And let’s not forget that comments made in passing can often leave lasting scars.   One friend’s experience was particularly hard to hear:

“Are you sure you want to wear that t-shirt? I can see your back fat.”

I didn’t even realize that people were concerned about what someone else’s back looked like until that moment. Oh, and I was 11.

If this comment was harmless, why would an adult remember it after all these years?  Why does this stand out as being a memory of his/her own self at only 11 years old?

Still not convinced body talk is dangerous? Here’s the data to prove it:

  • Negative body talk associated with poor body satisfaction, low self-esteem, more investment in one’s appearance, disordered eating habits and depression (Study 1)
  • Nearly 47% of all descriptions of male and female bodies reveal elements of fat stigma (Study 2)
  • Body comparisons on social media impact body concerns and mood (Study 3)

So for those of you that find yourself making these comments, stop.  Enough is enough.  What you’re doing is not helpful nor productive and you ought to have known it would have been hurtful.

For those of you subjected to these comments, you too should stop.  Stop thinking about how you could be different.  Take comfort in knowing that the emotion you feel is justified.

Remember that our bodies are not writing pieces.  They are not meant to be taken apart and critiqued. Our bodies are not a source of amusement and if someone finds them to be so, they should rethink their definition of funny.  The bodies we have been given, for the most part, are beyond our control.  Though we wish we could mix and match traits, like parts to a Mr. Potato Head, the truth is our genes have been seamlessly blended from birth and that runs deep, to the core of every cell.  All we can do is nourish ourselves, move our bodies through activity, and take care of our emotional and mental health. If someone tells you that you’re taking this too personally, tell them they made it personal.  Because our bodies are our own.  My body is my business and your body is yours.

The next time someone makes an unwelcomed comment towards you, take a stand.  This isn’t easy and takes courage, but speak up and respond.  Build a toolkit of skills using suggestions like these or forward them this blog post.  Go ahead.  Do it.

I am a big believer that people will treat you the way you let them.  How do you want to be treated?

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