“Body shaming, intentionally causing emotional hurt to a person, can be considered as a form of bullying”
“That actress is too fat!”. “He’s too skinny!”. How many times a day do we hear or read remarks like that? We hear such comments on our way to work, read them when browsing the internet or hear them during conversations with friends. But these seemingly innocent remarks carry a more sinister undertone to them than we think. There have been recent incidents in some countries where people committed suicide as a result of someone making such comments which is termed body shaming.
Most of us have experienced body shaming at one time or another in our lives. Some of us have been victimized by it while the others have played a part in making another person a victim. There is a misplaced belief in our society that body shaming is ‘for the person’s own benefit’, especially when such comments are directed towards people who are obese or overweight. This week, Health Capsule decides to explore more on body shaming.
Body shaming is defined as the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about his or her body shape or size. With an economy which thrives by highlighting and pointing out the smallest defect in the body, and marketing products that cover up or remove those ‘faults’, this phenomenon is becoming increasingly common.
Is it beneficial?
One might argue that by making someone ashamed of his body weight it might help him in terms of giving him an incentive to lose weight. But research has shown that this is not the case with the majority. Body shaming negatively affects how a person ‘sees’ his or her own body. A research done in the University of Pennsylvania revealed that overweight women who have a negative perception about their bodies have a greater risk of developing Diabetes and Heart Disease compared to overweight women who have a positive body image of their bodies.
In addition, there might be serious mental health issues that can occur as a result of body shaming. “While one person might brush off a derogatory comment about his body and get on with his or her life, it might affect another person differently. Such comments might lead to severe depression and even suicidal thoughts,” says Dr. Udena Attygalle, Consultant Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital.
According to the doctor, body shaming may also be one root cause for eating disorders like Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa, which again can give rise to serious consequences.
How to overcome effects from such comments?
“Body shaming, intentionally causing emotional hurt to a person, can be considered as a form of bullying,” says Dr. Attygalle. If the person or people saying hurtful things do not listen when explained that it hurts you, the best thing is to get another person involved, may it be a parent or a friend, he explains. His advice is to avoid distressing contacts when possible, deviating the conversation to other things when the person starts to say things that are hurtful about the other person’s body.
How can we help?
So, what if one of your loved ones really does need help with his body weight, especially if it’s a threat to his health? How should you approach him or her?
“One’s body image is a very personal issue, so the subject should be approached carefully,” advices the doctor. He suggests using a positive approach rather than using negative comments, like encouraging them to participate in a sport as a form of exercise.
Message to the parents
Results of another study conducted recently reveal that the majority of the body shamers started their habit when they were young; most likely from listening to the derogatory remarks made by their parents about other people and following in the same path.
Therefore, being respectful when talking about other people, especially in the presence of your children and setting an example to them, can be the first step towards sweeping away the dark cloud of body shaming from the society one day.