Body shaming: You probably know what this is, although you might not know it by name. It’s when someone is mocked or ridiculed for their size, shape, weight, or other body characteristics. You might have heard of fat shaming, which is shaming someone for being overweight or obese, but there are all different forms of body shaming. It can happen to anyone, no matter your weight. You might not think it’s a big deal if someone calls your feet too big or your arms too short. However, there are some very real ramifications when it comes to body shaming, particularly when teens are concerned.
Here are five compelling reasons why body shaming needs to end right now.
1. There’s Nothing Positive About Body Shaming
Sometimes people claim that body shaming is an effective way to get someone to change habits that might be unhealthy or destructive. The truth is, no one is going to suddenly change because someone else made negative comments about their bodies. Instead, the person attacked will feel bad about him- or herself, the person who said the cruel words will feel bad about their actions, and onlookers will feel awkward and embarrassed for having seen such an exchange.
If you have concerns about someone’s health and you are close to them, then a gentle face-to-face discussion can get your concern across without making them feel bad. Remember that it’s not your job to police the world’s eating habits. Unless you are a medical professional (who has been hired by the person in question) or the parent of an underaged child, you should refrain from making comments about another person’s body that could be seen as negative.
2. Body Shaming Can Lead to Eating Disorders
Adolescents are particularly prone to developing eating disorders, and body shaming doesn’t help the situation. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can develop when an individual has a warped view of their own body. While some people with anorexia and bulimia will experience weight changes, their self-perception does not always change. This causes them to continue with their extreme measures to lose even more weight.
Over time, these eating disorders can lead to the following issues:
- poor physical health
- organ damage
- other mental health disorders
Treatment often takes a long time and sometimes eating disorders need to be fought for a lifetime. Without treatment, these disorders can even become fatal.
3. Body Shaming is a Form of Bullying
Keep in mind that body shaming is a form of bullying. When it’s done online, through social media or through text, it’s called cyberbullying. Bullying of all types can lead to various mental health issues (in both the bully and the victim), so it’s important to nip behavior like this in the bud.
4. It Puts Too Much Emphasis on Someone’s Looks
Most parents spend a good deal of time teaching children that beauty is on the inside. They often discourage their children from making judgments based on a person’s looks. They will say, “that’s not nice,” when their young children point out that someone has an unattractive physical feature. This is because the goal is for children to grow into adults who see past physical imperfections and appreciate people for who they are inside.
Of course, the reality is that nearly everyone makes snap judgments based on looks. You might see someone and assume their age, their gender, and sometimes their income level or how intelligent or educated they are. These assumptions are all based on how a person dresses, carries him- or herself, styles his or her hair, and maintains his or her own personal hygiene. Adding body shaming into these judgments just contributes to the emphasis on how a person looks. Accepting body shaming is allowing people to be bullied for what they look like, which is something we’ve learned from such a young age is not acceptable.
5. Body Shaming Can Lead to Depression and Suicide
The most compelling reason why body shaming needs to end is that it can lead to depression, and depression can lead to suicide. As one of the leading causes of death for young people, suicide has become a national epidemic. What you might not know is that those who bully others (including participating in body shaming) are also at a heightened risk of suicide; it’s not something that affects only the victims of bullying.
Body shaming could lead to an eating disorder, depression, or worse. If you are the parent of a teenager who has participated in body shaming, you should put an end to it immediately. Teenagers need to learn how to interact and communicate with one another in a way that is not aggressive or bullying. Set a good example by not commenting (positively or negatively) on other people’s bodies; instead, focus on their inner qualities. Also, encourage your teen to think before hitting “post” on social media; ask them to remember that there is an actual person on the other side of the screen. With some frank conversations, you can do your part to end body shaming in the next generation.