Reality Check: Why Are We Still Seeing Fat Shaming in the Year 2018?

by Roki Prunali

At times, it is easy to feel as if humanity has come a long way… followed by abruptly feeling as if we have taken sooo many steps back when we watch the way we treat each other on a daily basis. So many current affairs fall into this observation, but today, in particular, I am talking about fat shaming. Social media – while revolutionizing the way we do business and giving us access to many things we would never normally see or experience – has also created a platform for people to be openly ridiculed.

Scrolling through Instagram and witnessing the amount of commenter trolling breaks my heart. And for those that are in the public eye, the thick skin or blind eye they may turn to those negative comments does not make it hurt any less. Typical comments like “she looks anorexic” or “they should not be wearing that” would make it difficult for anyone to feel good about themselves.

After reading Jameela Jamil’s story on the Financial Times, I Weigh, I was

a) completely appalled at the treatment she received based on her weight gain from a medical condition

b) utterly proud of her for turning the fat-shaming she experienced into the fodder for an online support initiative.

A little background about Jameela: in 2013, she became the first woman to host the Radio 1 chart show on British radio, and at the time, happened to be taking steroids for asthma, leading her to put on weight. Even though she was on radio – meaning you do not even see her, you only hear her voice – her weight gain was the talk of the town. Not the fact that she was a bomb radio host or the first woman in her position, just her waistline. “When the ratings came out, the papers reported that I had gained not 200,000 listeners, but a couple of dress sizes. I am a radio DJ – my looks should be entirely irrelevant. Unless my cheeks become so big that I can’t open my mouth any more” Jamil says.

Jamil was amazing at her job, but, because of her completely unrelated weight gain, the job propositions that came through were ludicrous (like taking humiliating photos of her on the beach while eating a giant salmon). Instead of falling victim to the words of those around her, she wanted to shed light on those shamers and how twisted their concept of beauty was.  We have seen the struggle for years, especially in the fashion world – even now in the fitness and wellness world. People strive to look like what society tells us to look like, but where is this misinformation coming from? Jameela lost her cool (that is putting it nicely) after seeing a picture on Instagram of the whole Kardashian family with their weights superimposed over each female Kardashian.

Fat Shaming

“It was sad enough in the 90’s when I was growing up and every girl at my school was struggling with self-image. A lot of us had eating disorders, myself included, because of the subliminal messaging – like this – about how little we weigh being how we measure our worth. But you expect that, as time progresses, this would change. If anything it’s worse – and it’s reached a point of epidemic because of social media,” Jamil tells Financial Times.

The silver lining of this rude awakening is that Jamil has started an Instagram campaign, called @i_weigh, which brings to light all the REAL things we should be valuing about ourselves. Underneath it all, we need to support each other and realize our worth is not in numbers of weight or waist size, but the other valuable things that are our makeup. With 40,000 followers and daily submissions of what individuals value about their self, this community is growing rapidly, and social media should definitely take note.

Fat-shaming is rampant in our society, and it is naïve to think otherwise. Further, being “too skinny”, just like being overweight, is equated with being unhealthy and ridiculed just the same. Growing up, I was rather lanky, and before I even knew about what body-shaming even meant, I was taunted for my looks. Nowadays, being super skinny is equated with having an eating disorder, which can have just as much emotional effect on a person as being made fun of for being overweight.

Yara Shahidi, the young activist and breakout actress, often speaks words worth emulating at all ages. Talking about body positivity, she told Teen Vogue, “I don’t know how many times we’ve been told to love ourselves and that our flaws are perfect or whatever it may be. We’ve heard that message our entire lives. But I feel like what’s difficult is that we also have this other, more subliminal messaging of ‘this is what pretty looks like. This is what beautiful looks like. This is what healthy looks like. This is what happy looks like.’ But it’s important that in this process we have companies really sticking to their word and doing more than saying your body is beautiful. It’s also important to have a supportive network of people who gas you up. Because as positive as we can be to ourselves, and as positive we can be to the world around us, it’s important to have that positivity being sent to us. So we aren’t alone.”

Picture: Jonathan Donavan

So, the new wave of body positivity is hitting our society, and it is about time. But while body positivity is extremely important, we must not forget to be healthy. The hardest battle is to mentally accept your own appearance and how you feel. Once you have fallen victim to body-shaming, it can be difficult to get yourself to that place where you even feel ok with how you look and feel. Coming from such a negative space, flipping to the positive is harder said than done. But, once you finally address these messages (internal and external) and are able to move to a positive place, making sure you are healthy while doing so is equally important.

Being healthy looks different for every person. While I am studying holistic nutrition, the key point that they are drilling into our repertoire of nutrition knowledge is bio-individuality. One person’s food is another person’s poison. So, I can’t emphasize this enough when talking about body positivity. What is right for you may not be a right fit for someone else. And if you Pretty Birds are ever in need of some words of encouragement, I am there for you whenever you need. Here, find your biggest cheerleader to become confident and positive about your body image.

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