“I’m Fat” and Other Body Shaming that Needs to Stop

 

Scale

Think about it. How often do you hear someone you know say “I’m fat” as part of regular conversation? How often do you say it yourself? No matter what the answer is, the number is too high. For the last year, I have heard some variation of “I’m fat” get said on a daily basis, often by the people who are closest to me. As a high school gymnast, weight was not really something I ever thought about – for me, working out five hours a day, six days a week, meant that I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted. But now, as an ex-athlete and college student, my weight is something I do think about. I would guess that 90% of the girls I know are currently trying to “manage” their weight. And while managing your weight, and thinking about it on a regular basis in terms of exercise and nutrition is perfectly fine, when is the last time you heard people say such self-harming things about managing their finances, or managing their stress? My guess is never.

Saying that you’re fat doesn’t only affect you – it also affects the people who you say it to. First off, you’re drawing attention to your own body, which seems like the last thing you would want to do if you’re self-conscious about it. Second, you make everyone else consider their own bodies, their own weight. Chances are at least one of the people you say this to is also not happy with their body, so shaming your own body also forces them to think whatever harmful things they already think about their own body. Third, you sound like you’re fishing for a compliment – whether you are or not, the right thing for a friend to do after an “I’m fat” statement is made is to negate it, tell you that you aren’t fat, and compliment you on your body. These compliments feel forced, because they are, and they don’t make you or your friend any happier.

I'm Fat

The following is a list of body-shaming expressions we really need to stop using:

“I’m fat.” The best Facebook status I’ve read recently said the following: “You are not fat. You have fat. You also have fingernails.  You are not fingernails. Love yourself however you look today cause its sunny and EVERYONE deserves ice cream!” (status credit: Julia Rogers). This status covers just about everything I am trying to cover in this article in five sentences and is beautiful and critical at the same time. Who you are and what your body looks like are not one in the same.

“I hate my body.” This is a complicated statement, because while it may be true, it isn’t something you need to share with the world. No matter how you feel about your body, you should try to be confident in who you are – confidence goes a lot further than physical appearance. And if you’re not confident, pretend you are; chances are you’ll fool the people around you, and who knows, you might even end up fooling yourself.

“I look so fat in this.” This is something I hear a lot right before a night out, but this is much more an issue of fashion than an issue of weight. Girls are notorious for trying on outfit after outfit before deciding on what to wear (and usually ending up in the very first outfit anyways), but this should not be an effort to find what you look “skinniest” in, but instead an effort to find what you look BEST in. I fully believe that if you have the confidence, you can pull off any outfit. Next time you go out, try to find an outfit that matches who you ARE, not what the scale says.

“I need to stop eating so much.” Maybe you do need to stop eating so much, maybe you don’t, but you don’t need to advertise your eating habits to the world. Either do it or don’t do it. Talking about it more and more will not do anything, you need to take action, and other people can’t listening isn’t going to help you do that. This goes hand in hand with the statement, “I should really go to the gym.” I am a firm believer that the gym is good for everyone – and if you can find the time and motivation to go, that’s awesome. If you can’t, talking about it isn’t going to change that.

“I’m not eating dinner, I need to save my calories for drinking.” Beside the fact that this is ridiculously unhealthy, it is also one of the stupidest things to say. I would chance a guess that after drinking on an empty stomach (assuming you haven’t blacked out), you’ll get the drunchies, and be drunk enough to lose your resolve and end up eating far too much greasy, fatty food. So, instead of ending up with the calories from a healthy dinner and the subsequent calories from drinks, you instead end up with the calories from alcohol and then the calories from crappy, gross, drunk food.

“I’m not drinking, I’m trying to lose weight.” This is a somewhat fair thing to do, but only if you are also maintaining a healthy diet and exercising – not drinking alone is not enough to make you lose weight. Additionally, not drinking is a totally valid thing to do, if your reasoning is something related to drinking (think things the long the lines of drinking too much, not liking who you are when you’re drunk, or wanting to focus more on academics).

“I’m eating less food and I feel so much healthier.” There is a huge difference between losing weight and becoming healthy. The healthiest people I know are not necessarily the skinniest people I know. Being thin does not mean you are fit. Cutting back on your food intake so that you drop pounds does not make you healthier, necessarily. If you’re still eating fried food and ice cream as your main food sources, just eating less of them, it does not make you any healthier.

“Maybe I should become anorexic or something.” Eating disorders are not something to joke about or take lightly. They are very serious, and they are not really about weight – they are psychological disorders that have to deal with control. Turning eating disorders into just another inappropriate comment can be harmful to those around you; you never know if someone you’re talking to has or has had an eating disorder, and trivializing them does not help anyone.

Saying these statements is not only harmful to your own self-esteem and self-image, it is often hurtful for other people to hear. We, as women (who are usually the ones who say these things, but it applies to men as well), need to stop apologizing for our “faults.” We are our own worst enemies. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? No matter who you are, what you look like, you deserve to be treated with respect; other people won’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Most people will not think about your weight until you bring it up, so why bring it up at all?! If you’re truly unhappy about your body, make a change, don’t just talk about it. If you stand up and show the world that you deserve the best, others won’t question it. Most importantly, be confident in who you are – I guarantee you’re more special than you think.

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6 thoughts on ““I’m Fat” and Other Body Shaming that Needs to Stop

  1. Anonymous says:

    While I appreciate the sentiment behind this post, I think it presents a lot of problematic beliefs similar to those held with disordered eating habits. It’s great that you want girls to stop body-shaming themselves, but the explanations behind why you think some phrases should not be said could potentially aggravate maladaptive thinking related to body dysmorphia/eating disorders.

    -“First off, you’re drawing attention to your own body, which seems like the last thing you would want to do if you’re self-conscious about it” This statement reinforces the thought that a lack of confidence in your own body is a)something to be ashamed of and b)socially unacceptable. Body dysmorphia is a horrible thing to deal with, and while some people DO use negative comments about their bodies to elicit social feedback in order to bolster their self confidence, your statement actually reinforces the notion that insecurity is something to be ashamed of and is something that should be hidden. Furthermore, it validates any dysmorphic thoughts – “if I’m ashamed of my body, I shouldn’t draw attention to my body because it MUST BE TRUE.” I understand that maladaptive thought processes related to body image are easily socially transmitted, but instead of isolating those who already struggle by telling them their insecurities are something to be hidden is severely unhelpful.
    -“Maybe you do need to stop eating so much, maybe you don’t, but you don’t need to advertise your eating habits to the world. Either do it or don’t do it. Talking about it more and more will not do anything, you need to take action, and other people can’t listening isn’t going to help you do that.” Once again, this line of thinking invalidates other people’s experiences with disordered eating. Telling someone who is preoccupied with the amount of food they consume to “just do it” just serves to either push them over the edge into dangerously maladaptive eating patterns or perpetuate their unhealthy beliefs about their “lack of willpower” having anything to do with the reality of their body. Remember that someone may very well indeed “need to stop eating so much,” but telling them to “just do it” is just like telling someone with depression to “just get over it” if their eating patterns are a result of disordered eating.
    -“I would chance a guess that after drinking on an empty stomach (assuming you haven’t blacked out), you’ll get the drunchies, and be drunk enough to lose your resolve and end up eating far too much greasy, fatty food. So, instead of ending up with the calories from a healthy dinner and the subsequent calories from drinks, you instead end up with the calories from alcohol and then the calories from crappy, gross, drunk food.” This type of thinking is far too complicated to fully dissect right now, but if you would like to learn more about how the healthy/unhealthy binary is horribly unhelpful to improving body image, google “Intuitive Eating.” The gist of this idea, though, is that some food is “bad” and some food is “good.” The more you demonize food, the more seductive it becomes and the more shame you’ll feel once you give in. Depriving your body of something it wants just because you think it’s “crappy” or “gross” will in the end turn eating into a battle — this is truly at the heart of all eating disorders. Food becomes an enemy, not something to be enjoyed. Letting go of this binary will allow your body to decide what it really wants. Sometimes this will be a salad, sometimes this will be a cheeseburger dripping with fat.
    -“If you’re still eating fried food and ice cream as your main food sources, just eating less of them, it does not make you any healthier.” Once again, while properly balanced nutrition matters to your body’s functioning, you may very well end up with orthorexic tendencies if you subscribe to this type of thinking. This places more of an importance on controlling what you eat rather than addressing unhelpful cognitions are behind your eating behaviors.

    In general, it also seems you’re confusing body image and disordered eating with losing weight for health-related reasons. While a lot of people do experiment with inappropriate and damaging methods to deal with their weight, and many maladaptive eating behaviors start with a preoccupation with body image, “health” has almost nothing to do with the issues surrounding body dysmorphia and disordered eating. These are very, very different things.

    You preach self-acceptance as the key to letting go of negative thoughts associated with body image, but then reinforce the type of food-related shame that actually perpetuates negative body image. And while you point out that disordered eating deals with control (which is indeed key to many eating disorders), your post is rife with comments advising people to simply control the language they use and control the things they eat instead of addressing the beliefs and their origins underlying these behaviors.

    This is a little thing, but I think it makes it quite apparent that you probably don’t have a deep understanding of eating disorders and their mechanisms. Your tags include lots of terms dealing body dysmorphic and weight preoccupation, but you only mention anorexia. There are a plethora of other eating disorders that exist, and none of them would benefit from the advice you give in this post. Experiencing binge eating disorder, EDNOS, bulimia, anorexia, etc. are all equally painful, and addressing just one of them (albeit with potentially harmful advice) can invalidate the rest of them.

    So, once again, thank you for addressing the prevalence of body-shaming and how harmful it can be, but I would really recommend reading “Intuitive Eating” or other books related to cognitive mechanisms that perpetuate unhealthy behaviors related to food, exercise, and bodies. Bravo for trying to be aware of these issues, but please please please do more research before posting things like this. You could unwittingly be doing more harm than good.

    • ipaulesbronet says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. You are very well-informed and I appreciate all you said – And you are right, I should do further research on body dysmporphic disorders, so thank you for your book recommendations. Additionally, I am deleting the tags that are directly related to eating disorders. I was in no way trying to contribute to the negative world of body consciousness and body dysmorphia, which I think you recognized. This was aimed at a broader audience of people who say things they don’t mean and then harm others by making comments about themselves. I just wanted to get it out there that consistently talking about your weight, your eating habits, and others’ eating habits can make other people uncomfortable. Again, I am very grateful for your input.

  2. Allie Lundegren says:

    Thanks for your post, there’s not enough stuff like this on social media these days. Body positivity is important for everybody!

  3. blah says:

    “when is the last time you heard people say such self-harming things about managing their finances, or managing their stress? My guess is never.” Actually all the time. I live in Los Angeles and all my friends are broke artists so they are constantly complaining about being broke. And i complain about my stress management all the time “I am so weak, how can i ever be successful if i cant handle this tiny bit of stress, CEOs have SOOO much more on their plate and my body can’t even handle doing a play. I’m such a joke, i get stressed out way too easily.I’m pathetic.”

    • blah says:

      i rarely complain about being fat…maybe more so about being lazy and not exercising or about eating badly but this has to do with my health, not how i look. how i look is irrelevant. because in the large scheme of things, there are more important things than being thin…like not being broke or being able to handle stress

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