Body shaming has existed throughout human history and in nearly every culture. To this day it continues due to social media, advertisements, and a society hell bent on having “looks” be a huge factor in determining one’s worth. In the past it was related to deformities (i.e. missing limbs, misshaped body parts, etc.). While we have greatly progressed passed this form of body shaming (not completely but mostly), body shaming today is mostly weight or body shape based. Why? The same reasons as a species we mocked, ridiculed, and unfairly judged other human beings throughout history: we don’t like what’s not normal or isn’t considered “fashionable.”
In the past being overweight was a sign of wealth and affluence. Everyone wanted to be the fat person strolling through town. Today, it is the opposite. With a plethora of food and limited physical activity, the West (and many other countries) has been expanding its waistline at an alarming rate. However, our image of what is considered a “desirable” body went in the other direction. We want to be thin and fit, not fat and obese. Tie that in within marketing campaigns, TV shows, movies, magazines, and social media and you have a breeding ground for everyone to look and judge one another based on our new standards. Being fat is out, being thin is in.
But, there is great irony in fat/body shaming today than in previous generations. Today, the majority of people are overweight or obese. Yet, we still have a society (and we’re all guilty of it) where we mock or look on in disgust as we see someone who does not fit “our” standards for what is acceptable. I put the word “our” in quotes because we have micro versions of what is acceptable. Person ‘A’ might consider Person ‘B’ who is 25lbs overweight as “lazy” or having no self respect or even stupid. Person ‘B’ might see themselves as just a little “husky” or having larger than average curves, but not stupid, unhealthy, or lazy. However, Person ‘B’ will look at Person ‘C’ who’s 100lbs overweight with the same views as Person ‘A’. I think you get the idea.
Part of the reason I see this trend continuing is for 2 reasons: instinctive reactions and ignorance. You might consider yourself a good person. You don’t see yourself a “judgy” and you believe is having respect for your neighbor and not assume negative aspects about their life or their character since you don’t know them personally. However, think of anytime in the last week (or even the last day) and you might recall a situation where you came to an immediate assumption about someone’s character (all without speaking to them or knowing their life story). It could’ve been another driver on the road or someone you saw eating at the local cafeteria or a mom with her kid at the grocery store. You jumped to conclusions, not because you are a bad person, but that is how our brains have evolved. Predicting dangers was what helped us survive for tens of thousands of years. The same mechanism in our brain is used to help warn us about things that are not normal (at least, not normal to us). That includes how people look.
The second reason, ignorance, is because we don’t consciously realize we are pre-judging another person. This relates back to the first reason, instinct. Unless you actively aware of your thought process (and very few of us are) then you will continue to do the things you say other people should stop doing. Now, magnify that on a scale of 100 million. You can start to see why this problem isn’t going away any time soon.
The question we have to ask ourselves is not when body shaming will go away but how do we respond to it? Enough research has shown that is negatively impacts an individual, both psychological and physically. There are few exceptions where someone takes the pain they’ve suffered and turned it into a strength. However, this is not the rule. So, what do we do? Do we hope everyone raises the next generation to be less critical of their neighbors? To be on point with their own thought process and stop any judgmental comment to come out of their mouth? Do we focus on “fat acceptance”? Do we just say, “being 30, 50, 100lbs overweight is ok?” Considering the state of our healthcare system I would say that would be a terrible idea. Fat and body shaming coming to a halt? Yes, that would be nice. Helping society improve their health and stop pretending it’s not a problem? Bad idea.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!