Most of us do not even realize how much body shaming we encounter daily. It is a major psychological block to weight loss that is often overlooked. We hardly notice how often words and images that cause us to feel shame for our forms plague our thoughts. Increasingly, our relationships with our bodies are becoming more complicated and fragile. In-person and social media conversations constantly remind us that our bodies are not good enough.
Some people think that shaming overweight people should be a helpful strategy. If you make someone feel bad about their weight, won’t they want to lose weight? As it turns out, it is quite the opposite. Body shame can lead to further weight gain, an inability to lose weight, and isolation, leading to other health problems contributing to weight gain.
Body shaming sets up a false narrative or comparison that says all people must look the same or strive for similar appearance goals. And when you fall short, which you will, you lack in worth or value. There is no room for imperfection, to be “working on” your goals. You either are or are not thin.
Where Does Body Shaming Come From?
Body shaming can come from both external and internal forces. It comes from the subtle and overt messages you get about your shape and size from people, advertisements, and social media. It comes from comments from friends about your appearance and a need for many to consistently note others’ weight or size. We also body shame ourselves, focusing on the parts of our bodies we hate or want to shrink, worrying about how we look or how others perceive our size.
Why do people do this to themselves or others? When someone comments on your size, what someone is eating, or how others look, they are trying to exert power. They try to feel superior or make themselves feel better by belittling others and passing judgment, so they do not have to look too carefully at themselves. People who shame others for their size or appearance have insecurities they are trying to hide.
The Impact of Body Shaming on Weight Loss
Body shame, whether from internal or external forces, can severely and negatively impact your overall health and your efforts to lose weight. It can lead to mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, and even result in disordered eating. In addition, it negatively influences your self-esteem, which plays a significant role in your attitude and mindset about eating and food.
Internalizing this shame can lead to increased cortisol levels, higher levels of stress, and many physical symptoms that results from changes in stress hormones. When you are ashamed or feel guilty, you are more likely to overeat or reach for salt-, fat-, or sugar-laden foods for comfort, which will inhibit weight loss efforts.
There is no evidence to support the idea that body shaming can help motivate people to lose weight. Still, there is plenty to support the assertion that body shame can inhibit weight loss and the adoption of healthy habits.
Healthline highlights that, among other adverse effects, people who face body shaming are more likely to become depressed or develop eating disorders. Therefore, learn to stop body shaming yourself. Instead, learn to accept external shame efforts for what they are. Body shaming is an attempt to mask personal insecurity. Body shaming erodes your confidence and progress rather than teaching you something important.
Spending less time thinking about your own body and looking at other people’s images online can help you develop a healthier attitude about your size and shape, which can lead to feeling more positive about your health and habits. Of course, it takes time to undo the harmful damage of these body shaming images, but it is possible.
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