I read a news article earlier which stated that in recent years it has become socially acceptable to “shame” a skinny person for their weight, yet making comments about someone being overweight is still an extreme faux pas.
We have become so aware of body image problems in our society that we have made an aggressive effort to reject the notion of overweight people being unhappy with how they look. This has been done, in some respects, to eliminate the stigma that they are lazy, stupid and greedy, etc. This is certainly a good thing. It is true that being overweight does not automatically make you these things. It is also true that people who are overweight can be happy with how they look.
Yet I would argue that the level of aggression in this movement has reached the point where it has turned around on itself and begun to attack people of a healthy weight; or rather, those who are deemed “skinny.” It has become a crime to be thin. Apparently it’s perfectly okay to comment on a skinny person’s weight, eating habits or exercise routine, but dare suggest that an overweight person should lay off the doughnuts, and welcome to World War III.
Perhaps there are people reading this who are thinking, “What does she even know?” It’s easy for someone of a healthy weight to make these assertions as they don’t know the true discrimination of what it is to be overweight. Perhaps this is true, but I feel as though I am in a good position to comment on this situation, given I have experienced both ends of the spectrum.
Reveal: I used to weigh 107kg. I am now a healthy 70kg for my 172cm frame, after a very long year of changing my lifestyle. Please take note that I attributed this weight loss to changing my lifestyle rather than dieting; an important distinction.
When I was overweight, which included the majority of my teenage years and a good few years of my early 20s, I thought I was happy with how I looked. I knew people found me attractive. I knew what to wear to enhance (or hide) my natural shape. But at the end of every positive sentence about my appearance, there was always this qualifying clause: for example, “I’m pretty, for my weight.” Of course, no one else ever dare add this qualifier when complimenting me, at least not to my face. In fact, the only person who ever felt comfortable enough to comment on my weight at all was my mother (and she never held back, let me tell you).
That is, until I started losing weight.
Initially the feedback was positive. “Congratulations, you’re doing so well.” “I’m proud of you.” The general comments you would expect for someone who is making positive change in their life. But the more weight I lost, the more negative the comments became. “You’re so skinny now!”, “Don’t you think you’ve lost enough weight?”, or my favourite, “You’re allowed to treat yourself now and then.” Yes, thank you. I’m aware I’m allowed to treat myself, and I do so, often, when I choose to.
My point is, why is it suddenly okay to make judgements about my exercise and diet now that I am a healthy weight, but it wasn’t okay when I was overweight? Particularly when—truthfully speaking, now—these judgements would’ve helped me more before (even though they probably would have fallen on deaf ears).
You can’t preach equality and claim we shouldn’t judge based on weight, and then do the exact same thing to other groups. Either it’s okay to suggest to someone to lay off the doughnuts, or it’s not okay to tell someone when to have a cheat day.
Inspired by Adelaide Now article by Louise Roberts: Skinny shaming is the new fat shaming (originally accessed 29/10/2015 13:09).