Body Shaming: Our Take On the True Definition of Healthy and Fit

Published September 14, 2019
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<article> <section> <p>For many, the internet dictates how we feel about the way we look. We see models, actresses and actors, and even friends or family members post pictures with incredible bodies. We compare ourselves to them. Sometimes, they tell us the ‘7 simple steps’ they follow to get results. We try, but even when we’re really dialed in, we fall short of ever looking like they do.</p> <p>In short, body shaming has only gotten worse with the boom in technology. And because body shaming can lead to eating disorders and other serious health problems, it’s something we need to take very seriously.</p> <p>And the sad truth is, how healthy and fit you are has <i>nothing</i> to do with how you look in a mirror.</p> <p>In this article, we’ll look at what body shaming is, how it affects people, how health and fitness have no relationship to what you look like in a mirror, and six steps you can take to stop body shaming yourself.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What is considered body shaming?</header> <p>Body shaming, also known as ‘<i>fat shaming</i>,’ presents itself in many forms. At its core, it means feeling frustration, sadness, or disappointment towards the way your body looks, feels, or performs.</p> <p>The two common types of body shaming are <sup>1</sup>:</p> <ul> <li><b>Criticizing how you look.</b> Judging yourself, comparing yourself to another person, or comparing who you are now to a former version of yourself.</li> <li><b>Criticizing how others look.</b> Whether directly or indirectly, making hurtful or rude comments about another person’s physical appearance.</li> </ul> <p>While body shaming isn’t new, social media has skyrocketed the number of people feeling insecure about how they look or feel.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What body shaming does to people</header> <p>The effects that fat or body shaming have on people are no joke.</p> <p>Fat shaming doesn’t just make people feel bad about themselves. It increases stress, leads to eating disorders and an increased risk of obesity and diseases, and even the risk of suicide <sup>2</sup>.</p> <p>And it can cause you to eat more, too. One study found women ate three times the number of calories as normal after watching a stigmatizing video <sup>3</sup>.</p> <p><i>Yikes!</i> These are heavy things, no doubt. But hiding from or sugar coating them doesn’t help either. Unfortunately, we’re in a world where social media makes it that much easier to judge people or make them feel bad for how they look. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="social-media-smart-phone-technology"> </picture> <header>Social media and body shaming</header> <p>The problem with social media is it creates an online ‘persona’ that displays people’s lives as a certain way, when in fact their ‘real life’ may be anything but. </p> <p>(How many ‘happy’ couples on Facebook have you seen get divorced over the last ten years?)</p> <p>The problem with that portrayal is, when it’s unrealistic, it makes people feel self-conscious and insecure about their lives.</p> <p>Trust us, you aren’t the only one who’s seen a picture of a model and thought, “What’s the point? I’ll never look like that!”</p> <p>Body shaming goes hand in hand with the devices we carry around in our pockets. For example, 75 percent of women feel women are portrayed unrealistically on social media <sup>4</sup>. </p> <p>Photoshopped images, pre-arranged lighting, and an army of Instagram models make it that much harder to feel secure in our bodies.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="man-feet-scale-kilos-european-weight-loss"> </picture> <header>The unhealthy truth about body shaming</header> <p>So, fat shaming is a big deal. And the truth is, how you look in a picture (or in comparison to another person) has nothing to do with how healthy you are. </p> <p>For example:</p> <p>Maybe you’re in the middle of a <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">weight loss journey</a>. You’ve lost fifty pounds but still have a way to go before you <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">reach your goal</a>. You see unrealistic pictures of Instagram models or other portrayals on social media. These make you feel insecure. </p> <p><i>I don’t look like that in the mirror, you think. How come I don’t look like her?</i></p> <p>As a result, you forget how far you’ve come. You forget that <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">your diet</a> is <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">incredibly healthy</a> and full of wholesome foods. And the hard work that made you feel so good before starts to feel like it was a waste of time.</p> <p>That’s the sad (and unhealthy truth) about body shaming in a social media-driven world. A picture of a stranger might cause you to lose perspective entirely.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>The <i>true</i> definition of healthy and fit </header> <p>The saving grace is this: true health and fitness run counter to conventional wisdom about how we should look or feel.</p> <p>Therefore, we need only change our definitions to rid ourselves of the problem.</p> <p>The definition of health is actually quite simple. It means you’re free of disease. And the definition of fitness isn’t much crazier. As in, <i>are you physically able to do things</i>? Then, you’re fit. Maybe not as fit as you’d like to be but becoming ‘fitter’ means you’re able to do more than you could before. </p> <p>Basically, if you’re free of diseases and able-bodied, you are healthy and fit—and no mirror or picture on social media can take that from you.</p> <p>Those definitions in mind, we want to unveil one of the lesser-talked-about-truths regarding health and fitness. <i>Health and fitness comes in different shapes and sizes</i>. Sure, Hollywood and the media portray one ‘genre’ of fitness and health in movies and online. </p> <p>But that doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy and fit if you don’t look a certain way.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Barbie and Batman: Did you know?</header> <p>Here are two eye-opening facts about how the world around us makes it so easy to feel insecure.</p> <p>Ladies, remember Barbie? Sure you do. </p> <p>Did you know if Barbie (the doll) was a real person, she’d be 5’9’’, have an 18” waist, a 39” bust, and weigh only 110 pounds <sup>5</sup>?</p> <p>Basically, she wouldn’t look like a real person. But little girls everywhere see Barbies and grow up thinking that’s what women look like.</p> <p>And here’s one for the men: the original Batman action figure would’ve had 22-inch biceps (the same size as Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was a bodybuilder)<sup>6</sup>.</p> <p>In short, from a young age we’re set up to fail when it comes to appropriate body images and types.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How do you deal with body shaming? (6 tips)</header> <p>While much of this seems bleak, the truth is, it’s the norm nowadays. Acknowledging that body shaming is a real issue is the first step towards a healthier, better you.</p> <p>The question is, <i>how do you deal with it? How do you fix your tendency to body shame or compare yourself to others?</i></p> <p>Here are six ways to get started.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="scale-diet-fat-weight-loss-tape-measure"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">1. Focus on nutrition</div> <p>In a way, you <i>are</i> what you eat. Well, sort of. If you eat excessive amounts of <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">unhealthy food</a>, your body won’t feel great, and you may not feel good about it.</p> <p>If you eat <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">wholesome foods</a> in the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">right amounts</a>, your body will have more energy and feel better. And eventually, you’ll lose weight. </p> <p>You know all this, but it’s worth repeating when talking about body shaming. Here’s why.</p> <p>Focusing on nutrition takes the focus away from how you look in a mirror or how much fat you have. As a <i>by-product</i> of eating well, weight loss happens. Your nutrition is much more controllable than how you look in a mirror, and you get the results you wanted all along.</p> <div class="sub-head">2. Focus on the Process</div> <p>Our first tip about nutrition leads into our second. </p> <p>Focusing on the ‘process’ of your weight loss or <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">health goal</a> is a proven technique for taking your attention away from how you look in a mirror. The process―not the end result or what things will be like someday.</p> <p><i>What is the ‘process’?</i> Think of it as the day-to-day habits you’re enlisting to achieve your <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">fitness goals</a>. 3 healthy meals per day. <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">3 workouts</a> per week. 7 or 8 hours of <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">sleep</a> each night. One or two <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">long walks</a> a week. You get the idea—the stuff that you’re doing here and now.</p> <div class="sub-head"><span style="font-size:.8em;">100 checkmarks from now...</span></div> <p>Not saying you have to, but if you charted those habits out, your weekly process would look like 30 to 35 ‘checkmarks’ on a bulletin board.</p> <p>(21 healthy meals, 7 good nights of sleep, etc.)</p> <p>The beauty of the process is you measure success based on how <i>closely you adhere to the process</i>. Success isn’t measured in the mirror or on the scale. You <i>choose</i> to feel good about your hard work and the actions you have full control over.</p> <p>And the most beautiful thing of all is that sticking to the process almost <i>guarantees results</i> (if you stick with it, of course). </p> <p>Think about it: <i>what you might feel or look like 100 checkmarks from now?</i></p> <div class="sub-head">3. Take breaks from social media</div> <p>One in four people on Facebook say they’ve deleted their account or taken an extended break from the app <sup>7</sup>. And because they’re reporting major benefits, hiatuses from social media are only becoming more common.</p> <p>Shutting off Facebook or Instagram for a while helps you set boundaries with technology and add more time to your day <sup>8</sup>. </p> <p>It’s also a perfect way to get you off the carousel of constantly comparing your body and life to other people’s bodies and lives. Start with a few days and see what happens.</p> <div class="sub-head">4. Write down what you <i>like</i></div> <p>They say there’s power in <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">writing down your goals</a> because it makes them real. Perhaps you can apply that same concept to body shaming or your relationship with how you look. </p> <p>Write down the physical attributes you <i>like</i> about yourself. Even if you keep the list somewhere only you can see, you’re putting those things out in the world and making them real. </p> <p>And now you have something to refer back to when you get stuck in a cycle of comparison or negative thinking about your health.</p> <div class="sub-head">5. Ask the right questions</div> <p>Every time you find yourself comparing yourself or getting upset because you haven’t achieved your goals yet, ask yourself these two questions:</p> <ul> <li><i>Am I being healthy?</i></li> <li><i>Am I fit and getting fitter?</i></li> </ul> <p>If you can answer yes to both of these questions, you’re on the right path. Your process is in full swing. Stick to it and keep going.</p> <div class="sub-head">6. See a professional</div> <p>We love being a part of your journey, but if body shaming is taking a toll on your mental or emotional health, or you think you might have an eating disorder, consider speaking to a therapist or other trained professional.</p> <p>We aren’t doctors, but we can say with certainty you’re not alone in seeking treatment for body shaming or an eating disorder. In fact, there’s <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">a website</a> that connects you with people who offer specialized treatment for these issues.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Overcoming the culture of body shaming</header> <p>There’s no sense lying about it: body shaming is a problem in a world where everyone’s constantly connected. If you’re prone to getting upset with the way you look or have developed an eating disorder from body shaming, you aren’t alone. </p> <p>We urge you to remember this core truth about health and fitness: it has nothing to do with the way you look. A little more fat on your belly or thighs than you’d like doesn’t make you an unhealthy person. Remember, health and fitness come in a variety of different shapes and sizes.</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Body-Shaming: What Is It & Why Do We Do It?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">What Is Fat Shaming?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The impact of weight stigma on caloric consumption</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">New study shows impact of social media on beauty standards</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Life-size Barbie's shocking dimensions</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Guinness hails Franklin man’s 31-inch biceps</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Growing Number of People Taking Extended Breaks from Facebook Use</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">4 Reasons Why You Should Take A Social Media Break</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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