“You’re going to be chubby like me.”
I was 13 years old.
And my aunt imparted these words of wisdom on me.
At the ripe old age of 40, I want to take my 13-year-old self and give her a big hug. And tell her that loaded, completely unnecessary comment came from a place of unhappiness in my aunt’s life. I want to reassure her that she’s perfect, just as she is. And help her understand that her self-worth should never come from someone else’s opinion.
But all I can remember feeling at the time is…God, I don’t want to be fat or chubby.
There was no internet to educate or reassure myself. And even if there was I’m not sure at 13 I would have been able to see past the chubby comment.
There wasn’t anyone I could really talk to about it…because we didn’t talk about “feelings” in my family. And thus began years and years of misunderstanding about food and deprivation to avoid being chubby.
I spent many, many wasted years trying to control my weight. And the reality was I wasn’t fat or chubby. I was what you’d call average weight. But I had that line hanging over me like a grey cloud – “You’re going to be chubby like me”.
I was fat shamed…even though I had no idea what fat shaming was at the time. This comment and the harmful effects of fat shaming laid the foundations for how I unhealthily treated my body on and off for years to come.
What Is Fat Shaming?
According to the urban dictionary, fat shaming is the act of poking fun of someone for being overweight or telling someone they are worthless, useless, lazy, or disgusting because they are overweight.
Humiliating someone you judge to be fat or overweight by making mocking or critical comments about their size is NEVER right.
Being the “ideal” shape, size, weight has, unfortunately, become the goal for some many women. We are constantly bombarded with the message that to be worthy, happy and fulfilled we need to change our appearance. Magazines constantly offer tips about how to lose weight “in 3 days,” appear slimmer “instantly,” and hide our “imperfections”… without actually knowing anything about us, much less our appearance.
Fat Shaming Is Everywhere
Body shaming and fat shaming is everywhere. TV shows and soaps frequently use overweight characters as the butt of many jokes - making it acceptable to fat shame. It has become the norm to criticize aspects of our bodies as some type of bonding ritual with friends – if we all criticise and hate our bodies; it somehow makes us feel connected.
Fat shaming leads to a vicious cycle of criticism and judgement. Images and messages from social media, from “well-intentioned friends and family” often imply that we should want to change, that we should care about looking slimmer, smaller and sport a 6 pack with pride.
This is BS. Not only is it BS but it’s exhausting. We don’t all have to be the same shape or size (or weight for that matter). And we certainly shouldn’t be constantly sold the message that we should all need to change and be a certain size.
What Has Happened To Kindness And Empathy?
I’m not sure I’ll ever quite understand why people think it’s acceptable to talk negatively about someone else’s appearance. Where has all the kindness, empathy and support gone in today’s world? We don’t know anyone else’s struggles, daily battles and hurdles yet we feel it’s our god-given right to have an opinion without considering their feelings.
We are all human, with feelings which are easily hurt. And what we often forget is that an ill-timed, innocuous comment can have negative consequences for years to come.
But I Was Only Trying To Help!
Not many of us mean to fat shame but even the most well-intentioned, passing comment can have a huge and life-long effect on the recipient.
Fat-shaming comes in many, many forms:
- Feigning concern for your overweight friend’s health
- Acting surprised when an overweight colleague does some exercise
- Suggesting to a plus-size friend they might be more comfortable wearing…
- Offer unsolicited dietary advice
- Does my bum look big in this type questions
- Telling a friend they look so much better because they’ve lost some weight
Some people (?) believe that making overweight people feel ashamed of their weight or eating habits may motivate them to get healthier, eat less, exercise more.
The Harmful Effects Of Fat Shaming
Scientific evidence confirms that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it generally has the opposite effect.
Instead of motivating people, fat shaming leads to self-loathing. This is turn can lead to comfort and overeating and additional weight gain.
The harmful effects of fat shaming go way beyond increased weight gain. Fat shaming has been linked to:
- Depression - People who are discriminated against due to weight are at a higher risk of depression and other mental issues.
- Eating disorders - Fat shaming has been linked to an increased risk of eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia.
- Reduced self-esteem and self-worth - Fat shaming is linked to reduced self-esteem and self-worth.
What we say - and how we say it - MATTERS
In a world which is so full of negativity…BE KIND. Be responsible with your words. Lift others up instead of putting them down.
And if you are "offering" advise – draw breath before releasing your words and really consider how your comment will make someone else feel.
Lastly, if you have a little lady in your life, be it a daughter, a grand-daughter, a niece or a student…love the sh*t out of them for who they are. Every single day, build them up. Because the world is a cruel place at times and can knock them down so easily. Give them a safe, loving space to come home to, where they are valued and loved NO MATTER WHAT. Give them the confidence to look that person in the eye and say “No – I am not chubby. I am ME and I don’t want to be compared to anyone”.
Co-Founder, Pepper Hustle
P.S. If you have suffered the harmful effects of fat shaming or experienced comments/actions from your past that prevent you from moving forward contact us. We can help. We want to help. At the very least, please join our super supportive Hustlers group where you will feel welcome, kindness and nothing but support ❤️