Skinny Shaming, Fat Shaming, & Body Image: We Need to Stop
You’d pretty much have to have been living under a boulder to not hear the controversy surrounding skinny shaming (as a response to fat shaming) and body image over the past couple of years. Fitness vlogger Amanda Russel, supermodel Genevieve Barker, and pop singer Meghan Trainor have been a few of the high profile women at the centre of the issue and the backlash that’s erupted from what body constitutes a “real” woman.
Let’s be honest: Talking about body image and weight management isn’t easy. Both in terms of actual body fat (or lack thereof) and the way we manage how we see ourselves and each other. The effects of which are dangerous to our mental and physical wellness, causing anxiety, emotional eating and trauma, and physical symptoms including heart conditions.
Body image is more than the effects of obesity or the dangers of malnutrition. It’s more complicated than healthy vs. unhealthy eating. And it’s greater than the sum of a BMI calculator.
Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to serious dieting or unhealthy habits to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed in the media. Sure, there are brands and media images that show what more average women look like, but they are few and far between. And to compound it all, numerous studies show that the more television a woman watches, the more likely she is to find appearance more important than what she does.
Instead of enjoying nutrient dense & all natural foods, she’s starving herself and going on extreme diets. Instead of living an active and healthy life she’s consumed with being smaller. Instead of focusing on her strength – both inner and outer – and what she can achieve to make her life more awesome and the world better, she’s focusing on whether she has a thigh gap or not.
When we don’t do something we want because we’re uncomfortable in our own skin – be it wear a certain outfit, do a particular activity or speak up in a conversation – we miss out. On opportunities. On relationships and connection. On a feeling of self-worth and pride and happiness. And on making the world a better place to live in.
This is not okay. Body shaming has to stop.
With this in mind, the perfect body image isn’t always about image.
Defined by BMI guidelines, BMI charts and BMI calculators, being underweight or obese and at risk for heart disease, certain cancers and coronary artery disease is more about how we feel than how we look. in fact, a study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine reports that normal-weight people who have fat around their middle have a greater mortality risk than people who are underweight, overweight or obese with regular fat distributions. The study also underlines the idea that while BMI has been useful in many ways, it remains an imperfect measurement. Many researchers have pointed out that BMI doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle, and muscle tends to be heavier; nor does it take into account where a person is holding their fat.
With that in mind, body image – and being a woman – shouldn’t necessarily be about being “too skinny”, “too fat” or too little or too much of anything. It should be about fearless health and achieving your dreams. And healthy and dream chaser doesn’t “look” a certain way. But it does feel a certain way.
Being okay with who and what you are is not tied to the number you see on the scale. It’s tied to how you feel physically and mentally. It’s attached to what you want in life and how you go about getting it. It’s in how you love and care for yourself, others and the planet.
To set the record straight: In an ideal world – in the one we create together right now – a real woman is a woman. Full stop. Regardless of looks and labels and shaming. And if you’re unhealthy and think you could feel better – or do better – then by all means, do so. And do it because it makes you happy. Because you feel stronger. Because you feel more connected. And because you can. Because you truly can.
Kristy Gardner is a writer, photographer and the author of Cooking With Cocktails: 75 Spirited Recipes (Countryman Press). She’s written & photographed with Edible Communities, The Taste Canada Food Writing Awards, and CountryMan Press and has presented at The Food Blogger’s Online Summit. Kristy lives in Vancouver, B.C. and has a penchant for farm fresh cocktails, carbs, hiking in the backcountry, bad ’80s films, bourbon, and pigs. Stalk her at SheEats.ca.