comes to judgment of their bodies, women can’t win.
consistently shows the pressure to maintain a particular
physique is stronger for women," said Kelly Brownell,
dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke
University. Brownell, an expert in weight bias, says women are
valued more for their appearance, and there is less acceptance
of variation in body shape and size.
often make fat jokes, but shaming of obesity is no joke.
"People who experience weight discrimination have more
daily stressors, physical symptoms and negative
emotions," according to a 2016 study published in
ample research revealing the negative effects of fat shaming,
but what about so-called "fit shaming"? Seeing how
fitness is mostly lauded, it’s absurd to say fit shaming is
somehow worse. Yet it’s worth examining to reveal how women
constantly have their bodies policed by society, no matter
their size or shape.
to three women who were shamed for being fat, and then, after
losing weight and getting in shape, shamed in a different way
for being fit.
Moore is a 29-year-old mother of three in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Formerly a stay-at-home mom, she became a personal trainer
after losing more than 100 pounds. She remembers the
fat-shaming she endured before her weight loss.
I knew would say, ‘You have such a pretty face’ as a
backhanded compliment," Moore said. "Another time,
at the beach, I wore a bikini, and I heard some teenage boys
call me ‘disgusting.’" She talked about another time
at an amusement park waiting to get on a roller coaster.
People behind her were complaining about the wait, and the
attendant told them within her earshot: "Don’t worry.
She’s not going to fit on here, and you’ll be next."
members would often say, "Are you sure you want another
helping?" After losing weight, Moore said people
commented on her body even more.
you’re in shape, people feel like it’s OK to say
something," she said. "Now I get comments like, ‘Are
you sure you can eat that?’ because they’re worried I’ll
regain the weight." Some think she should only eat salad
to stay lean. On her Instagram posts, many have said
variations of "Muscles are for men."
have said of her new physique, "Aren’t you taking this
a little far?" She also experienced criticism over her
gym time with comments like, "Shouldn’t you be home
taking care of your children?"
it make her feel?
feel like I take the fit shaming more personally because it’s
a result of my choices; I worked really hard for it. Getting
fat wasn’t something I did on purpose." Overall,
however, "fat shaming made me feel sad and helpless, and
fit shaming makes me angry."
story is similar for Julie Stubblefield of Mechanicsville,
Va., a mother of two who lost 70 pounds. She said friends
began making her eating habits their business.
would be at lunch with friends who were thinner than I am, and
they’d suggest I eat a salad instead of a burger,"
Stubblefield said. "Or they’d say, ‘Do you know how
many calories you just ate?’ Which is funny, because I
thought about it every day."
said their concern was really a mask for wanting her to live
by their standards. "This subtle shaming was more painful
for me because it was constant. It made me feel less
than." She stopped going to social outings because she
didn’t want everything she put in her mouth policed.
shaming didn’t stop after she lost weight.
irony is that everyone still watched what I put in my
mouth," Stubblefield said. "I was reminded that
desserts exist. I was asked if I had an eating disorder."
Some doubted whether she could keep the weight off, but she’s
kept it off for six years.
became thinner and fitter than those who passed judgment on
me, and it became, ‘She’s too good for us now that she’s
lost so much weight,’" Stubblefield said.
explained that changes in body weight can disrupt
relationships. "It can upset the balance. People can get
jealous," he said, adding that people who lose weight can
experience personality changes, such as an increase in
confidence, which also affects relationships.
said her friends were worried that she would judge their
eating habits, the same way they’d judged her. "It was
a weird shift where I felt I can’t make anyone happy."
that with fit shaming, she at least has her health now, which
makes it less painful than fat shaming was.
shaming has been harder to handle for Andrea Sereda, a
38-year-old social worker and mother of four in Calgary,
Canada. She said judgment of her body is something she’s
faced since she was really young.
was 6 years old when I became aware people had opinions about
my body," Sereda said. She was overweight as a child and
remembers being told to suck in her belly for a photo. When
she was 9, there was a family celebration, and the
grandchildren were going to have cake. "My grandfather
said, ‘I don’t think you should be eating cake. You don’t
need any cake.’" He made comments about how many
calories each bite contained as she ate it.
recounted a fat-shaming incident in college, when she was cast
in a show and the costume designer was fitting her. "I
was just in my underwear and feeling vulnerable. After
everyone left, he grabbed my abdomen in both hands and said,
‘You need to do something about this. You have a lot of
talent, but if you keep doing this to yourself, no one is
going to want to cast you.’"
judgment of Sereda’s body increased after she lost 126
worse with people that knew me from before," Sereda said.
"I’m fielding multiple comments each day." People
constantly call her "Skinny Minnie" or say,
"You’re so skinny now you’re going to
disappear," or even show hostility: "We get it. You’re
skinny. You can stop now." Another is: "You have no
boobs left!" She also got the warnings when she began
lifting weights. "You don’t want to get too muscly."
mostly acquaintances making such comments. Closer friends,
conversely, engaged in self-deprecation, comparing their own
bodies negatively to Sereda’s new physique.
of the frequent discussion of her new body, she sought advice
from a psychologist. "I was dreading going out to social
settings and having to field all these comments," Sereda
said. "I had to learn how to handle it." It’s only
been two years since she lost the weight, and she said the
comments add to the pressure to not regain.
that just because people have lost weight, it doesn’t make
them fair game for commentary on their new shape. Everyone
deserves to live free of being body shamed, regardless of