By Thrive Reno Therapist Katy Sutton, CPC-Intern
WHAT IS BODY SHAMING?
Body shaming is the act of criticizing or mocking yourself or others based on appearance.
When body shaming is directed internally, it often consists of comparing yourself to another person. Saying or thinking, “My thighs are so big compared to hers,” is an example of internal body shaming.
Body shaming also manifests as criticizing someone else’s appearance. Telling someone, “People your size shouldn’t wear tight-fitting clothes,” or saying to a friend, “Did you see that guy’s nose? He looks ridiculous!” are examples of outwardly directed body shaming.
Unfortunately, body shaming plagues society and it can be all too easy to become caught up in the act.
Discover the ways that people unconsciously engage in body shaming below:
- Praising someone’s weight loss
- Criticizing someone’s food or movement choices
- Engaging in pro-diet talk
- Giving unwanted food or movement advice
- Using the word “fat” negatively
- Encouraging participation in fashion “rules” instead of supporting the idea of choosing flattering clothing
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DANGERS OF BODY SHAMING
When someone experiences body shaming, they often become preoccupied with their body shape and weight. They may also become dissatisfied with their body, which seems to be a very prevalent feeling. According to a Verywell Mind article by Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS and medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., FTOS, 50 percent of preadolescent girls and 30 percent of preadolescent boys dislike their bodies, while 60 percent of adult women and 40 percent of adult men possess a negative body image.
The psychological and emotional effects of body shaming include:
- Eating disorders
- Self-harm behavior
- Reduced self-esteem
- Increased stress hormone levels from the hyper fixation on one’s appearance
- Relationship struggles caused by constant self-comparison to others
BODY SHAMING AND EATING DISORDERS
Body shaming and eating disorders are closely linked. Victims of body shaming may feel compelled to engage in dieting, excessive exercise, disordered eating, and other behaviors to change their appearance. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about 65 percent of people with eating disorders experienced bullying that contributed to the development of their eating disorders.
In many cases, individuals who develop eating disorders draw their sense of self-worth from their appearance. Frequently, these people are driven by the false beliefs that weight loss will lead to social acceptance, increased self-esteem, and protection from criticism.
COPING WITH BODY SHAMING AND ENGAGING IN BODY POSITIVITY
To cope with the mental-emotional pain brought on by body shaming and related bullying, you can honor your body and engage in self-kindness in the following ways:
- Reflect on the aspects of your body that you are thankful for.
- Acknowledge all the amazing things that your body does for you. Your body is powerful regardless of its shape or size.
- Clean up your social media by unfollowing anyone or any organization that makes you feel bad about yourself. Curate a social media space that promotes body positivity and self-love.
- Set boundaries with people who participate in body shaming.
- Refrain from negative self-talk and internal body shaming.
- Place words of affirmation in areas where internal body shaming has commonly occurred in the past.
- Compliment others for what they contribute to this world, like their laughter or empathy, rather than solely giving appearance-based flattery.
- Throw away your scale. Physical and mental health encompass so much more than weight.
- Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident.
- Believe that your existence is so much more than your appearance. You are beautiful just the way you are!
SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS OF BODY SHAMING
A therapist can provide professional, unbiased counsel to navigate and heal from the effects of body shaming. Thrive offers outpatient therapy as well as eating disorder treatment programs to help heal your relationship with food and your body. Reach out to us to learn more about how you can thrive just the way you are.
About the Author
Katy Sutton, CPC-Intern — Therapist
Katy Sutton, CPC-Intern, earned her bachelor’s in psychology from North Carolina State University and her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Northwestern University. Her clinical techniques are grounded in cognitive-behavioral modalities and incorporate elements from the feminist theoretical approach. Her clinical experience has ranged from working with teens to older adults on issues including eating and feeding disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders including body dysmorphia, anxiety, trauma-related symptoms, and depression. Katy strives to promote healing through empowerment and advocating for self-worth. She has a passion for working with the LGBTQIA+ community and those struggling with societal pressures to conform to gendered expectations. She believes in creating a relaxed and natural therapeutic relationship full of compassion and humor. Katy describes herself as a body-positive activist and a mindful movement enthusiast. Her free time is spent hiking with her dog Daisy, traveling, and watching “Parks and Recreation” on repeat.