What is body shaming?

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Many of us spend a significant portion of time engrossed by social media sites, connecting with friends, browsing through photos or commenting on things that strike a chord with us. Often, it is harmless fun, but one of the downsides is how open it is to body shaming.

Commenting on another person’s appearance is all too common. You may have seen in magazines the ‘rate or slate’ type pieces in which people are actively encouraged to judge whether they think someone looks good or bad in what they’re wearing. Common features also include celebrities with no make-up, celebrities in bikinis and celebrities who have put on weight or are looking thinner.

It is time to refrain from posting hurtful comments onto a public forum, where even the person being discussed can see them, and end body shaming.

What is body shaming?

Body shaming is defined as the act of making inappropriate and negative comments about another person’s weight or size. Frequently, this is something that overweight people are subjected to but there’s an increasing trend in criticising those who look ‘too skinny’.

Body shaming is ubiquitous. It’s in magazines, newspapers, television shows, movies, conversations between friends, on the internet and social media sites. Comments can be nasty and sometimes used in poor-taste comedy.

Nobody should have to live in a world where they’re made to feel bad about their bodies by other people, especially considering people are often critical enough of their own appearance.

Some shocking examples of body shaming include a Fox News host saying that Kelly Clarkson should "stay off the deep-dish pizza for a while". A cruel photo of a pregnant Kim Kardashian being likened to a whale went viral across social media sites and former Girls Aloud star, Cheryl Cole, has campaigned against body shaming after being subjected to cruel taunts about her slender frame.

The consequences of body shaming are severe, whether you’re chastising yourself or someone else, and can contribute to mental health problems.

Why is body shaming so dangerous?

Research has shown body shaming can heighten issues with problem eating. For example, ‘fat shaming’ may cause a person to eat more and put on additional weight.

At the other end of the scale, someone who is constantly being told they’re too skinny may start to eat less because of the stress or because they’re too scared to put on weight due to the scrutiny.

Body shaming has become such an issue that the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has just announced that Transport for London will no longer be allowed to run ads on the tube, in bus shelters and on street signs which may cause body confidence issues.

This means that controversial adverts such as those featuring unrealistic body images, often of models in swimwear, will not be shown.

Speaking about his decision to ban such adverts, Khan commented: “As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising. It can demean people, particularly women, and make them feel ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end.”

What can be done about body shaming?

We cannot control the actions and comments of others but we can stop ourselves from entering the vicious cycle of body shaming.

1. Stop body shaming yourself

Everyone has bad days and times when they feel they would like to change something about themselves. Try to accept who you are rather than condemning yourself for it. If you’re around people who are moaning about their appearance, rather than joining in, walk away and do something that makes you feel good about yourself.

2. Don’t join in

You may encounter body shaming regularly, and be guilty of joining in, possibly without even realising it. The best thing you can do is avoid making negative comments altogether.

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