Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Body-shaming paradox: thin-shaming is more acceptable than fat-shaming (but shouldn't be)


A few days ago, I discussed how Valerie Bertinelli responded to a fat-shaming commenter who told her to "lose weight." Now clearly, body-shaming is wrong. But it is also sometimes misunderstood as being exclusively fat-shaming. But thin-shaming exists too and it is more socially acceptable. And what's worst of all, thin-shaming is most often done by the very people who are fat-shamed. The bullied become the bullies, as it were. 

Let's look at the show "My 600-lb Life" which explores morbid obesity. These people seeking weight loss have been ridiculed for being overweight. And that's disgusting. But there's a myth that only overweight people have scale struggles. Shows like "My 600-lb Life" make it look like weight loss is the only battle and being thin is the ultimate goal. 

However "underweight" people dread the scale too, only for the opposite reason. I got overweight and then obese and then I lost 100 pounds. But I have several family members who cannot gain weight. When my husband and I had Covid 19, we both lost weight. I was happy, but he was horrified to lose weight. He has been "underweight" for much of his life. And guess who gained the weight back right away--me. All I had to do was look at food again and bam! it was back, while weight gain for him has been an uphill climb. 

And back to thin-shaming, I noticed the difference in people's response to our Covid 19 weight loss. And it could be construed as body-shaming. When he told people that he lost 17 pounds, many said "wow! you couldn't afford to lose weight!" Whereas no one said to me, "well that's okay because you could afford to!" That would obviously have been body-shaming.   

So albeit the "thin-shaming" was unintentional. But the message was clear. It said "you are already too thin and should gain." And it shows how people who would never call someone overweight, feel free to comment on what they perceive as "underweight." Some people believe that they are complimenting, but if so, it's back-handed. 

The problem we all had with the Valerie Bertinelli commenter was her pointing out that Bertinelli needed to "lose weight" as if, as Valerie said, "I didn't have a mirror or scale." Like she didn't know her weight and it was necessary to inform her. And therein lies the problem I have with people telling my husband that he "couldn't afford" the weight loss and why I say it's body-shaming. 

Just like Valerie Bertinelli, he has a mirror and a scale. He knows what he weighs. He feels body-conscious and embarrassed about being "underweight" as others feel being overweight. He doesn't need anyone pointing it out and rubbing salt in the wound, thanks just the same. 

People who struggle with obesity sometimes can't imagine how anyone could not want to be slim. They may envy, to the point of hating, people who can "eat anything they want and not gain weight." Well, hello, "underweight" people feel the same way only in reverse. I lost 100 pounds and it was lots of work. But not as hard as weight gain is. For some, it's literally impossible. More later on that. 

And then there's the name-calling. We would never, at least not these day, call someone size-based names. We don't even use the word "fat" anymore. But no one seems to have a problem saying skinny, and worse. I've even heard "malnourished" used. Many assume that slender people have an eating disorder like anorexia! But we'd never point out that obesity is an eating disorder!

So how about we just stop commenting on people's size, period? How about we mind our own damn business and if we've nothing positive to say, shut up. Whether it's anorexia or obesity like on "My 600-lb Life", it's just (as Valerie Bertinelli famously said) "not effing helpful." 

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