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Body Shaming: Let’s leave the comment, “You’ve gained/lost weight”

stop body shaming

Opinion

Body Shaming: Let’s leave the comment, “You’ve gained/lost weight”

If you missed the sarcasm, your comment is unasked-for. Weight opinions are not like saying your favourite colour is blue, it just shows your lack of boundaries.

stop body shaming
Almost everyone gained weight during the pandemic, because our active lifestyles were replaced by sitting at home; I went from walking long distances between lectures for almost 6 hours every day on our huge campus, to sitting watching series and writing you spicy blog posts. To everyone who’s so kindly commented that I have gained weight, yes, I know, we have mirrors at home. This is how astonished I am when I shockingly discover from you that I’ve gained weight, despite looking in the mirror every day.

If you missed the sarcasm, your comment is unasked-for. Weight opinions are not like saying your favourite colour is blue, it just shows your lack of boundaries. I’ve gained weight, yet still, the only thing sexier than me is my outstanding academic record.

Many think body shaming is a good thing, because shame motivates these damn fat/thin people to stop being so fat/thin! Shame isn’t a catalyst for change, it’s a paralytic—those who’ve been shamed know this well. Also, BMI (Body Mass Index) which calculates whether you’re the “appropriate weight” is scientifically nonsensical and so flawed as to be useless.

 

Black and Eurocentric beauty standards, diet culture and fat antagonism perpetuate body shaming. Western culture demonizes larger people, whereas Black culture demonizes thin women as “flat,” and needing meat on their bones. You can be plus-sized, but only in an hourglass shape. If you’re plus-size but your face isn’t pretty, you’re disgusting and letting yourself go. Have a tiny waist, huge ass, perky boobs, wide hips and big thighs, but not too big. We hide behind these “preferences” instead of interrogating how they conform to the status quo and perpetuate marginalized people’s oppression and exclusion.

 

Diet culture is a billion-dollar industry because researchers already know that majority of people (about 95%
according to most sources) don’t work; if people lost weight for life, this industry would die. Funnily, while body shaming uses health as the biggest weapon, fat has been shown to protect against several issues like “infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anaemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” Plus-size people also have lower rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, anaemia, ulcers and chronic bronchitis. You haven’t heard that because it doesn’t make money. Pursuing health is neither a moral nor an individual obligation, and health status should never be used to oppress, judge or determine the value of an individual. Stop using “health” rhetoric as an excuse to overstep.

Body shaming includes telling womxn to “dress for their size” in a world that already polices our bodily autonomy. Ever since I became thick, I’ve faced more sexual harassment and slut-shaming for what I wear. Truth is, it’s my body you’re offended with, because a slim woman can wear the same thing without being berated (I know because I was once slim) and chubby women are hyper-sexualized. If we’re going to talk about liberation and bodily autonomy in social justice, give fat/chubby people the space to do the same, otherwise you’re practising low-fat milk feminism.

Let me explain how one’s weight is none of your business, then show how different factors affect weight, like mental and physical illness, making your unasked-for opinion problematic.

What does the comment “you have gained/lost weight!” achieve, except make people self-conscious? When I encounter body shaming, I relive years of childhood trauma from being bullied for being chubby, but the shame you put on my body is not mine to carry. If you rely on poking people’s insecurities to make jokes, then you’re really not funny. Yeah, cupcakes can make you slightly fat. Sure, drinking gin can damage your liver. Indeed, sunshine gives you hyperpigmentation.

Mental and physical illnesses (like depression, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, HIV and AIDS etc.) potentially affect weight, or the medication thereof has weight gain/loss side effects.

I had a friend with an eating disorder, losing up to 5 kilograms a week because she had body dysmorphia (a mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance). People would compliment her weight loss, which only worsened her perception of herself because she felt obligated to continue starving herself for the public gaze. When her weight gain was pointed out, she also starved herself or forced herself to throw up her meals (bulimia). In other words, your weight opinions can directly impact someone negatively, whether you mean to or not.

 

My best friend once had depression, and she lost weight because she survived on one apple a day; I even had to force her to eat and bring her multivitamins when she had no appetite. Another friend would binge eat during her depressive episodes. In other words, weight doesn’t always have to do with “letting yourself go.” It can be the effect of an illness someone is struggling with. Remember when you laughed that Chadwick Boseman had lost weight, then he died of cancer? Remember when you’d diss Taylor Swift for being “skinny,” only to discover she had an eating disorder? Sometimes you have to take your opinion, lubricate it, and shove it up your ass.

My mother took lithium carbonate to manage her bipolar disorder, and one of the side effects was weight gain. She received several comments about her weight, essentially punishing her for taking care of her mental health. Other people internalize this and stop their medication. With every child she gave birth to, she gained weight. Four children is a lot! Women do the world a service by bearing children, without which humans would go extinct, then people have the audacity to comment on a mother’s weight gain? That weight gain, those stretch marks, they are the scars of the favour women do for humanity.

On that note, studies show that women gain weight annually in their twenties—it’s normal. When I was 13, I lost 6kg in 2-3 months through exercise and diet. I gained weight in hospital at 16; when I tried the exact same regimen, I couldn’t lose weight because women’s metabolism changes as they age. My little sister never gains weight, EVER, yet she eats as much as a family of six because of her fast metabolism. I eat infrequently and in small portions, but I gain weight easily because my metabolism is as slow as Zimbabwe’s development—despite going to gym for an hour at least thrice a week, and yoga once or twice a week. No one asks for their genetically determined metabolism, so stop commenting on people’s weight. It is body shaming!

 

Due to my hormonal imbalances, I take the birth control Minesse; studies show it reduces your ability to gain muscle. In other words, no matter how many weights I lift, my fat is less likely than other women to turn into muscle. Sort of like how a certain political party whose name starts with the same letter as my name, is unlikely to turn into a democratic party, but I digress.

I recently received the lecture of my life about my weight, that overweight people (apparently wearing size 12 is overweight, LOL) are more at risk of dying from Covid-19 because they’re unhealthy. But being healthy comes in all shapes and sizes, genius. It’s a myth that being thin or muscular is the only way to be healthy. Shot-put athletes tend to be fat, despite intense fitness routines. I knew an overweight swimmer who won all her races, clearly showing she was fit and healthy. I was chubby in late high school despite attending team swimming an hour every day. Someone can be thin and have unhealthy eating and exercise habits, but I was chubby and fit. And this is why you shouldn’t hold in your farts because sometimes they travel up your spine and give you crappy ideas like the claim that being thin is the only way to be healthy.

I recently went hiking with my tiny aunt, and when we reached the summit, she had written her last will and testament, and breathed her last breath, because if she had to exercise for her life, she would die. Whereas my legs barely ached because I go to gym and play umamtshayana (African version of dodgeball) with my siblings at home. Have I gained weight? Yes, but okusalayo (fact of the matter is), I am fit and cute AF. My vertical growth stopped, so I had to expand horizontally. That’s sustainability; something a body shamer’s shrinking brain cannot grasp. Bodies are not made of wood, they change. Let’s leave unsolicited weight opinions in 2021 and respect each other’s lifestyles which aren’t up for public scrutiny.

When I'm not smashing the patriarchy, I debate, paint, and work on my YA African feminist fantasy novel on Wattpad--which I guess is also smashing the patriarchy. Currently stu(dying) BA Law at University of Pretoria. I may or may not be a mermaid masquerading as a human. Pro-LGBTQ+. I'm just out here not hearing problematic people over the volume of my Afro.

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