Body shaming, thin shaming, fat shaming, weight shaming—all of these phrases sum up one idea: that our body does not fit the ideal standard, and we should feel badly about it. Lately it also seems to be a particularly popular topic in the media:
- April 27, 2015: "Company behind 'beach body ready' ad trolls critics on Twitter." UK-based company Protein World reacted recently to criticisms of their beach-body-ready campaigns sparking more controversy: we are here to "motivate, not commiserate."
- April 16, 2015: The "Perfect" Body: A video released by Personal Trainer Cassey Ho specifically as an anti-body shaming campaign drew a huge backlash with everything from rave reviews of her 'photoshopped' body to criticisms of the supposedly ideal proportions and shape.
- March 6, 2015: 2,000 women defend "dancing man" from fat-shaming bullies": A cyber-bullied victim was defended by 2,000 women who organized a Twitter campaign to identify the victim, #FindDancingMan, and invited him to an LA party.
Treating Victims of Body Shaming
We asked Psychiatrist Kristin Francis, MD, to weigh in on her experiences treating victims of body shaming:
As a psychiatrist, I frequently treat patients who have been the victim of body shaming. It is prevalent in our culture, especially among people who are overweight or obese. People of size often feel judged and negatively evaluated, even by their physicians. This sets them up for increased risk for disordered eating and decreased activity habits, and increases their risk for mood symptoms, such as depression.
Setting Standards: Health + Confidence = Happiness?
So what can we do to counter body shaming? Can we resolve not to buy in to the culture of shame and quit comparing ourselves to others?
Francis advises that to increase your self-esteem, you need to actively change your behavior: "Start doing the things today that you've been putting off until you feel better about yourself/are less depressed/more motivated." Procrastination, she says, results in the exact opposite: "…further insecurity and lack of connectedness."
She also counsels victims to invest time in relationships, hobbies, volunteer work, and social experience. And when it comes to your body: "Realize that most people don't like something about their physical appearance, but that we ignore it in order to do the things we love."
Create a More Confident You
Specifically, Francis advises these strategies to increase your self-esteem:
- Start some hobbies that you've been putting off.
- Get involved in volunteer work.
- Try new social experiences that may interest you.
- Make new friends.
- Volunteer and give back about something you are passionate about.
- Remind yourself of the world outside yourself.
Really, in the end, body shaming is just a complete waste of time—seriously, a cryin' shame.