What Is Body Shaming: How To Deal With It

body shaming / a young woman crying

Last Updated on January 26, 2023 by Lori Geurin

Body shaming has become an alarming problem in the U.S. The fallout is staggering. A shocking 30 million people will suffer from an eating disorder sometime in their life. About 1,000 women die each year from eating disorders due to malnutrition, heart attack, and suicide.

81% of 10-year-olds are scared of being “fat.”

70% of 18 to 30-year-olds don’t like their bodies.

51% of 9 and 10-year-old girls say they feel better about themselves when dieting.

Nine and 10-year-olds! Let’s just let that sink in for a minute.

Body shaming has become a big problem in our world. Learn what it is, why we do it, and what we can do to help stop the problem.
Many young girls are concerned about being “fat”.

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Why Body-Shaming Needs to Stop

Not much gets me riled up, quite like body shaming (or fat shaming).

I have to be honest. When we’re at home we sometimes giggle when our hilarious daughter, Maddie (who lovingly refers to me as “Mama Nori”) sometimes declares in her deepest voice, “Big Mama Nori Hungry!”

She has a point because I do like to eat. So we laugh it up and move on because it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

However, the lasting effects of body shaming are no laughing matter.

As you read in the statistics above, eating disorders (ED) are a serious problem for many people. And according to the stats, ED patients are getting younger and include more and more people.

Some reported causes of ED include teasing, bullying, and dieting to “look better,” which can be related to body shaming.

So let’s define it.

What Is Body Shaming?

According to the dictionary, body shaming is,

“the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.”

Walden Eating Disorders says body shaming shows up in different ways:

  1. Criticizing your appearance or comparing yourself to someone else (“I’m so fat.” “She’s much prettier than me.”)
  2. Bashing another person’s appearance to their face (“You’re never gonna get a date until you lose 20 pounds.”)
  3. Criticizing another person behind their back (“At least you look better than him.” “She’s so skinny. I know she’s anorexic.”)

(Check out these 50 Unique Ways To Share Fun Facts About Yourself.)

“We can say it’s not OK, and we don’t want to live in a culture where people can say such hurtful things. Body shaming is always people shaming.”

Dr. Heather Widdows, Ph.D. of Psychology Today – “Be Ashamed Of Body Shaming”

In a recent article, mindbodygreen.com said that body shaming can include a variety of behaviors. Let’s take a look at them below.

Types of Body Shaming

  • A focus on dieting instead of nutrition (Dieting focuses on looking a certain way. Nutrition focuses on nourishing your body.)
  • Refusing to ever indulge (It’s healthy to allow yourself occasional treats.)
  • Idolizing body types presented by the media (God makes us all special and unique and created you for a purpose.)
  • Shaming people who are ‘’too skinny’’ (Enough said.)
  • Judging the variety of body types in the exercise room, office, grocery store, etc.  (See above.)
  • Judging others for conforming behaviors, despite understanding the pressure we face from society (Can you relate?)
  • Judging personal expressions of sexuality  (believing certain body types should only wear certain styles of clothing)
  • Not knowing our own bodies  (such as avoiding looking at ourselves in a mirror)
  • Defining beauty simply as a look rather than a state of mind (believing beauty is only skin deep and missing the more meaningful attributes which make us who we are)

Dr. Jennifer Greenberg is a research director at Massachusetts General Hospital. She works with patients who suffer from severe fixations on their appearance. When asked about the constant barrage of media influence she had this to say:

“The more that you’re exposed to these unrealistic, unattainable ideals, the more you’re likely to compare yourself or even compare others to those ideals, and the worse you tend to feel about yourself.”

RELATED: 50 Simple Pleasures in Life

Have You Experienced Body Shaming?

Have you been on the receiving end of body shaming? If so, how did you feel? Angry or hurt?

Did feeling that way ever bring you to a place where you decided to stand up for yourself and others which led you to feel empowered? Let me explain what I mean by that.

Sometimes a person will use body shaming as a platform to stand up for what’s right or advocate for other people who don’t have a voice.

What action did you take, if any? Did you confront the body shamer? Or, maybe you were the one doing the shaming.

Things that make you go, hmm.

Trust me. I’ve had plenty of “open mouth, insert foot” moments in my life, so let’s just be honest here.

If you were the shamer, what led you down this path in the first place? Were you feeling lonely? Jealous? Self-conscious? Or was it something else?

Our society must examine what causes people to accept body shaming as okay. In many circles, it seems to be a harmless acceptable norm.

But why is this so?

You probably agree that body shaming is never okay. Plus, we’re doing ourselves and our children a huge disservice by overlooking body shaming.

(Check out these 50 simple ways to be kind to others.)

How To Deal With Body Shaming

How you respond is completely up to you and your comfort level with the person and situation. Here are a few ideas and strategies to consider.

  • If you don’t feel safe, you can simply leave the area.
  • Sometimes we don’t have time or energy to engage, and that’s okay. Remember that you don’t have to bear the responsibility for teaching them why their behavior is hurtful or wrong.
  • If you’ve considered your relationship with the individual and feel safe, you might want to respond to their comment with something that makes them think. For example, “I feel hurt when other people make negative comments about other people’s bodies.”

Body shaming has become a big problem in our world. Learn what it is, why we do it, and what we can do to help stop the problem.

Summary – How To Respond to Body Shaming

As you can see, body shaming is a real problem in our society. It’s something people do to other people. It is also something we can do to ourselves, and it is not healthy.

There are several things to consider when you experience body shaming. Thinking about some of the strategies above can help you deal with a difficult situation.

Sometimes you may want to confront body shaming when you witness it. But if you don’t feel safe or up to talking, that’s totally fine too. It’s okay to find a safe place. If you see someone else being body-shamed you can be a supportive friend.

Talk about how it makes you feel so you can develop a healthy body image and protect the innocent and defenseless.

Let’s work together to create a new norm. You can make a difference!

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Body Image

What are your thoughts or experiences with body shaming? Any tips to share?

Share below in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you think!

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12 thoughts on “What Is Body Shaming: How To Deal With It”

    1. Thank you, Kingsley. I hate to hear that you’ve dealt with body shaming but thankful you were able to overcome it.

      We need a cultural shift where this isn’t an acceptable way to treat people but, unfortunately, it seems to be fairly common and that is heart-breaking. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. I totally agree. No one should have to deal with body shaming, but especially not young children. You’re completely right on about embracing all shapes and sizes and it begins at such a young age. I believe that as parents we really need to raise the standard of what we’re saying (or not saying that needs to be said) about others because our little ones are always watching. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  1. Those young ages make me sad. I have two girls ages 10 and 13 and have dealt with a little bit of them talking negatively about their bodies but not too much. I hope I can help keep that at bay…

    1. Makes me sad too, Julie but it’s great that your girls have a mom who is aware that this can be an issue. When my daughters were your girl’s age it seemed like they started becoming more aware of these issues and hearing things at school from their friends. It definitely made me more aware of being proactive at home.

    1. This is such a great point, Angela! I think it used to be more of a girls issue but it’s not at all anymore. It definitely impacts boys too. Thanks so much for pointing this out!

  2. I feel so bad for young girls these days. We never had to worry about this when we were kids. It just didn’t occur to us. We were to busy playing outside with friends. How different things are today.

    1. Yes, that’s so true, Daniella! I so wish things were simpler for our children today. We live out in the country in a small town in Missouri and it’s a nice little town. But even so, life here has changed so much from when we were kids… as you said.

      But as a culture we move forward with the information we have now, keeping our children safe and at the same time finding ways to encourage their growing independence. It’s a different world for sure and it’s a challenge. Thanks for sharing from your experience!

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