fit shaming and skinny shaming

Fit-Shaming and Skinny-Shaming


So you’ve decided to lose some weight, or maybe you’re just trying to eat healthier.  Maybe you’ve decided to exercise a bit more, or you’re even working toward a goal to be able to lift a certain amount of weight or to run a race.  We’re all told that these are good things.  They are the most common New Years Resolutions.  Our parents and teachers and doctors and the media raise us with this constant urging to be thinner, be fitter, and be healthier.

Yet as soon as we take that first step to actually DO what society insists is the right thing, the fit-shaming starts.  “You’re already thin enough.”  “You’re not getting enough nutrients.”  “Why are you torturing yourself?”  “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.”

This is every bit as wrong, as misguided, and as mean-spirited as fat-shaming, picking on somebody because they’re heavier than what you think they should be.

Who Asked Them?

First of all, what business is it of anybody else?  You don’t need anybody else’s approval or permission.  You want to lose weight, to become healthier, to be more fit.  Go for it and ignore the naysayers.

If a critic has their say but then continues to belabor the point, you have to wonder why.  If they really cared about you, they’d respect your decision to become healthier.  You are making a concerted effort to be a better you, to feel better and look better, which will boost your self image and self confidence.  Why would anybody want you to think less about yourself, to feel worse instead of better?

Are the Shamers Ashamed?

If they actually don’t care about you, then why are they giving their unsolicited opinion?  Are you a threat to them?  Maybe they see something in your determination that they wish they had, and maybe they feel some sort of internal shame.  If they attack you, it could be their way of justifying their own failure to pursue similar health goals.

Too often these criticisms come from overweight, unhealthy, or non-fit friends or co-workers or Internet trolls.  They may internalize your health choices as some sort of judgement or attack on their own lifestyles.  Rather than live and let live, they may feel compelled to defend themselves against this perceived attack.

The Best Response

Turning the criticism back on your detractors is a common reaction.  If an overweight person calls you too thin, it would be easy to point out that they are too fat.  If someone who is obviously out of shape criticises your exercise regimen, it would be easy to cite statistics on diabetes and heart disease.  The problem is that they have probably already rationalized their poor health and may sincerely believe that obesity and inactivity are perfectly acceptable.

Their teasing could become mean and/or relentless, though.  Others may try to tempt you, to goad you with peer pressure, or to ridicule you.  To this, it wouldn’t hurt to mention to your attackers that they are bullying someone who is just trying to improve their life at nobody else’s expense.  If that simple fact doesn’t get through to them, then they are too thick or stubborn to get it, and they aren’t worth your attention or respect.

Your best response, however, is to just smile on.  You know you’re right.  You know you’ll feel better and live longer.  You can do more good by example than by joining in their negativity.  If they actually are feeling some sort of self-shame, you may very well be the one to convince them to follow your lead.  Show them the positives of self-improvement.  If they want to continue to mire in self-loathing and bad health, that’s their decision.  They are not your responsibility.

Don’t Be a Bore

This must be said: Do not ask for the criticism.  Once you have decided to improve your health or control your weight, don’t expect the world to applaud you.  Don’t push your agenda on others.  Don’t brag about “seeing the light” or knowing more than other people.  If you are flaunting your new personal diet and/or exercise regimen in other peoples faces, you can only blame yourself for the criticism that comes from behaviour.

Be humble.  Be true to your goals, but respect that others have the right to their own ways of life.  Sure, finding others with similar goals and aspirations is a great way to succeed, but never try to force it on anyone.

You Are Number One

It’s often pointed out that if the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling during an airplane emergency, you are to put yours on before attending to your loved ones.  If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to help others.  The same applies with diet and exercise.  When you succeed, you may influence others to try to improve themselves.

Have you faced fit-shaming or skinny-shaming?  Feel free to leave a comment about it below.


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