The Impact of Body-Shaming: What To Expect in 2021
February 22, 2021
As a woman, have you ever been called out for how you look, how much you weigh, or for being “too fat?”
We live in a society that is conditioned by the media. Body shaming is not a new phenomenon and has been around long before social media became so popular. The difference is that the act was not as under the microscope as it is today. Body shaming refers to various acts that cause people to feel negative toward their bodies.
Social media can empower persons and spread messages of hope and body positivity. However, social media can be a deadly tool in the wrong hands, especially when it gives rise to cyberbullying and body-shaming.
Body shaming ranks as one of the most common forms of cyberbullying. The societal view of thinness being the ideal beauty standard has corrupted human minds. So, when persons deviate even in the slightest way, their body type is often ridiculed or seen as inferior.
Though countless persons have fallen victim to body-shaming in person or on the internet, it has a single set of identifiable effects.
With social media’s arrival, people now have more platforms and opportunities to make negative and harmful comments on someone’s appearance and weight.
Body-shaming is humiliating, and it has painful long-term consequences. It negatively affects the mental body image and reinforces the misleading belief of “how we need to look.” It perpetuates a false impression of the “right” body type and fuels self-doubt and issues related to self-esteem.
Body-shaming contributes to several psychological, physiological, and mental health disorders.
Impacts of Body-shaming
Appearance and image are particularly sensitive topics, regardless of if you are young or old, or male or female. However, women suffer more from body-shaming than men do. In this sense, your physical appearance refers to your weight, shape, size, style, makeup, and clothing choices.
When persons of any age experience any form of bullying, such as body shaming, their mental health can deteriorate significantly. Here are some of the unfortunate things that body shaming can do.
Causing Overweight People to Eat More That They Normally Would
Discrimination causes a person to feel stressed and pressured. In the case of overweight people, this stress can drive them to eat more and gain even more weight. Studies have shown that women exposed to weight-stigmatizing information, such as tweets or comments, tend to eat more calories, and they feel as if they have lost control of their eating. Compared to women who are less exposed to such content and have a more positive self-image, affected women have been proven to eat as much as three times more.
Risk of Suicide
There is a link between bodily discrimination and increased risk of depression. Studies indicate that those who experience weight discrimination were 2.7 times more likely to become depressed. Other studies illustrate that depression is a prevalent thing among people, especially those were extremely obese.
Depression is one of the main driving factors of increased suicide risk, and severe obesity was associated with a 21-times more significant risk of suicide-related behavior. Additionally, a link was established with a 12-time greater risk of attempted suicide. While no studies prove that fat-shaming directly causes suicide, it is plausible that the harmful effects of weight discrimination can have that unfortunate outcome based on the potential for depression.
After you have been publicly bullied, the natural response is to avoid putting yourself in other similar situations. This can result in isolating oneself and avoiding social interactions.
Body shaming can increase the feelings of low self-image, self-worth, and self-esteem. An affected person can develop feelings of loneliness and self-disgust that can lead to a state of depression. The implications of depression on suicide were highlighted above.
It’s not always about overweight persons eating more. An eating disorder speaks to less than optimal eating habits due to feelings of lost control and low self-esteem. Affected persons often indulge in behaviors, such as refusing to eat (anorexia), bingeing and purging (bulimia), and believing that controlling food intake will change the appearance and make the body-shaming stop.
Potential Ways To Improve The Situation
In trying to cope with the feelings and effects of body shaming, it is in your best interest to learn self-love and self-validation principles.
Body shaming does not seem to be going anywhere. However, in recent years persons have become more conscious about the impacts, effects, and importance of embracing themselves. The world is catching on to incorporating and respecting women of all shapes and sizes. People have also started using the concept of “plus-size models,” bringing awareness to that body type and its attractiveness.
A handful of companies and celebrities have been working to change the narrative around “acceptable” standards for the female body. Body shaming for women can even come in the subtle form of posting pictures. It does not always have to be a comment or a tweet. Posting images with various offensive captions can trigger the feelings of being body shamed.
For this reason, persons have created platforms and groups, such as “Braving Body Shame,” to tackle the body-shaming phenomena. In these social groups, they work together providing support and helping others on their journey against the fight of body shaming. This is predominantly done through conferences and forums, in which everyone is welcome.
Another way to be a part of the movement is to speak out whenever you see someone being victimized or shamed. You can also create petitions and seek the attention and assistance of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). NEDA has done a great job in fighting the issue on various platforms, and it encourages individuals who witness body shaming to notify this organization. Through its Media Watchdog Program, you can write positive body posts to bring a positive feeling to others.
The fight starts with the individuals. It’s important to practice self-care and self-love. Though it may seem a simple statement, this is where a lot of persons struggle with prioritizing. If you do not take care of yourself first, you stand no chance of taking care of someone else.
Practice self-care activities, such as journaling, taking nature walks, meditating, doing breathing exercises, and developing a good sense of self. Women must be self-assured of who they are and what they stand for. You can also spread awareness and let persons know it’s OK not to believe everything they read and see on the internet. People need to be more positive and encourage one another in online interactions and experiences.
How To Cope
If you have been body shamed because of your weight, consider healthy ways of managing your physical state, and seek the help of a professional nutritionist.
Try talking to those with whom you are close for emotional support. Having a familiar face around can help alleviate the negative thoughts in your head. Try reaching out to a therapist to talk about your emotions and seek guidance.
Is Body-Shaming Expected To Stop Soon?
As indicated above, this is a fight that begins in the hearts of people around the world. This extends beyond those who have dealt with the adverse effects of body shaming. It must involve those who are partaking in the acts of cyberbullying. Unfortunately, many of the persons with malicious intent thrive on breaking the will and spirit of others. So long as such persons have access to platforms where they can continue to bring their words and images of destruction, it’s unlikely that the problem is going to disappear.
Thankfully, celebrities and organizations, such as NEDA, are trying to help the world to move in in a more positive and acceptable direction where all of this is concerned. However, these efforts cannot control the will and desires of all of those who are causing the issue.
If you are to look at some of the most positive posts on the internet intended to inspire hope, there are still persons who feel the need to bring negative energy where it doesn’t belong. Persons, such as these cannot change unless they have the drive to do so. The reality is that many of them don’t, which means they are going to continue to attempt to poison the minds of many through body shaming.
The best bet to mitigate the effects of the problem is to work with people who have been or are likely to be affected by it. While the issue begins with the content put out there, if the mindset of affected persons can be changed effectively, it should be possible to make positive strides in this fight.
Even with all these considerations, it is going to take a herculean and collaborative effort from a lot of different people and parties around the world if this unfortunate issue is supposed to go anywhere.
Body shaming is never OK, and everyone who can and is willing to take a stand needs to be given the platform to do so. The goal is for unscrupulous cyberbullies to no longer feel as if they have the power in the situation.
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