The Whys and Woes of Body Shaming

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First, a little bit about me. I became overweight in my mid-teens and was comfortable with my appearance. And if you look at me now, you might want to qualify me as borderline underweight. People don’t believe how I managed to lose so much weight in such a short time period. My answer is simple- “The pressure of society”. I was completely okay with how I looked but apparently people weren’t.

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It’s funny how the terms ‘overweight’ and ‘underweight’ seem to imply that there’s an ideal weight. But before starting, here’s a fun-fact. The seemingly accurate Body Mass Index (BMI) Scale is completely misleading when it comes to measuring fatness or health. It is a mathematical equation focused solely on body weight, failing to distinguish between bones, muscles, organs and fat.

Thus, many athletes and body builders, who are considered to be the epitomes of fitness, actually fall into the overweight category in the BMI scale. Even the person who invented this scale- Adolphe Quetelet, was a mere mathematician who came up with the equation roughly 200 years ago to describe the standard proportions of the human build (the ratio of weight to height in the average adult). He might as well be face-palming in his grave upon seeing the modern-day usage of his scale.

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Back to my experience. More or less everything has been quite the same throughout these years, the same set of friends, consistent grades, in short- the same old me. But at the same time, everything doesn’t feel the same. Here’s how:-

  1. People starting acknowledging my intelligence. Bullies replaced “fatty” with “nerd”.
  2. My elders suddenly don’t have any problems with my lifestyle anymore, although it is more or less the same. If they see me lying on the couch and eating now, they consider it as “relaxing”, whereas earlier I was chided for being “lazy”.
  3. If I’m out in public, with a tray full of junk food, nobody bats an eye. Whereas, earlier, even if I asked for one potato chip, everyone used to lose their minds. From fat jokes to unsolicited diet advice, I’ve had it all coming my way.
  4. I remember looking at girls in magazines, movies and even mannequins, and not being able to relate to them. And now when I encounter these, I go “That’s so me!”
  5. Whether it’s street shopping or online shopping, buying clothes doesn’t seem so complicated now. This is stark contrast of my previous inhibitions of whether I’ll find a good fit, whether it “flatters my body type” as many fashion experts preach and also whether I’ll even have options and variety to choose from.
  6. My crush had rejected me followed by an advice that I “should hit the gym instead of studying so much”. He later asked me out thrice after the weight loss transformation.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m not going to spell it out entirely to you. I want you yourself to think of ways of how the world is a little kinder to those who aren’t fat. Fat shaming is very common and a socially powerful phenomenon. Here are some surveys:-

  1. In a study by Doctors.net.uk, a professional networking site, 54% of the doctors reportedly believed that they should have the right to deny treatment to overweight patients.
  2. In a 2011 documentary about online dating, ‘When Strangers Click’, it was observed that Women are afraid of meeting a serial killer whereas men are afraid of meeting someone fat.
  3. Yahoo! Health stated last year that being overweight is the number one reason kids are bullied.
  4. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) has conducted various studies signifying that fat people are less likely to be hired, receive comparatively fewer promotions and are also more likely to be suspended or fired.
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But well, you are now better equipped to understand what the phenomenon of the ‘Thin Privilege’ actually signifies. The society humanizes thin people by bestowing on them advantages (for example think how airplane seats and desks are being made keeping thin as the default body type) which contributes to the oppression of another part of the society (just type “fat people are” in the Google search bar and see the autosuggestions).

Here’s another fun fact. Human health is not binary. Someone who is fat can be healthy. Someone who is skinny can be healthy. Someone who is fat can be unhealthy. Someone who is skinny can be unhealthy. Thus, it would be about right to remove weight from the health equation and focus more on their eating habits, personal daily routine and exercise patterns.

Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Now, thin people must be thinking that I’m leaving out on skinny-shaming, which is a problem present in society too. And rightly so, skinny-shaming can hurt someone’s feelings as much as fat-shaming does. It so happened to me a few days ago, that a girl needed help with two of her quite heavy bags and I offered to help her. She looked up and down my frame, and remarked snidely, “This bag is really heavy.” (implying that my skinny arms won’t be able to lift them). I then proceeded to lift the bags, deliberately using only one hand in order to shut her up.

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But then why did I choose to focus more on fat shaming in this article? That is because if someone taunts your thinness, you still aren’t stripped of the advantages bestowed on you by the society (remember the ‘Thin Privilege’). Whereas fat people have to face the brunt of society like they always have. Fat shaming hits harder, which I want you to understand.

For argument’s sake, even if the person in question is unhealthy, they deserve basic respect. I mean, would you ever tease a cancer patient on their health?

A person’s weight only affects those who inhabit it, and that makes this immense hatred towards fatness really baffling. I don’t really understand the reactions I see when a fat person enters the room- right from looks of disgust to whispers and laughter. It creeps me out sometimes to see how people feel such a strong sense of ownership of other peoples’ bodies.

I really wish that other people cared about each others’ happiness rather than their dress size. This is why the world needs body love and not body terrorism.

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