When I was growing up I heard the comments about my body. Legs up to my armpits. She could wear a paper bag and look great. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to look like that again.
I also heard adults tell each other how amazing and healthy they looked because they’d lost weight. Well done! You must feel fabulous! You look incredible!
By the time I was 13 I knew, without a doubt that being thinner made you a much better person than being fatter. And I didn’t even have social media.
That’s because those comments, the ones that suggest one body type is better, more comment-worthy, than another, are indeed fat shaming.
It’s no wonder, when I hit puberty and put on weight I felt like a moral failure as well as a physical one. People who could keep their body in check were honored and praised and celebrated. Those who couldn’t were whispered about. Ignored. Looked at with pity and had to endure posters shouting that their body type was a national ‘epidemic’.
It’s no wonder it didn’t take long to slip into an all-encompassing loathing for my body.
When I had kids of my own and started to see body image red-flags in them, I jumped into action. I wasn’t going to let my divine creatures slip down that road. I learned that the way our culture shames and humiliates bodies at the higher end of the size/weight bell curve is damaging to all of us. No matter where you or your kids sit on that curve, fat-shaming is harmful.
That’s why I’m keen for our community to think about the words we use when we talk about bodies. It’s why I believe we need to stop using some terms and start using others.
Fat-shaming terms to stop using
- Overweight. Consider that we don’t use the word over or under to describe any other size of our body than fatness. Oh, her hands are undersized. She has overlarge feet. Her leg bones are over-length. His are under-length. Human weight follows the exact same bell curve distribution that any other part of our body. Some are very thin and some are very wide. Let’s stop using the terms ‘over’ and ‘under’.
- Obese. The word obese (and all it’s associated iterations) has medicalized the size of people’s bodies. It’s hard to use the term obese and not mean ‘sick’. Stick to large or super large instead.
- Healthy weight. When I was my sickest with an eating disorder I was well within the realms of a ‘healthy weight’. And yet I didn’t have a period for years, I’d started to grow fuzzy hair on my skin and I thought about food and weight from the moment I woke to the one I went to sleep. I was very sick. Others, well into the higher ends of the weight bell curve and classified ‘unhealthy’ – yet they have low blood pressure, high muscle strength, good sleep quality, great libido, excellent body image, strong mental health. Where we fall on the size chart needs to be distinct from how we talk about health, otherwise, it’s just more fat shaming.
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