Body Shaming: How to Handle It

Article posted in: Lifestyle
body shaming

Body shaming is everywhere: In social media, at work, school or even in your own home. People who are overweight or battling obesity are sometimes made to feel like they are lacking willpower, incompetent or to blame for their excess weight, experts say. Those negative messages can have a profound impact on both mental and physical health.

Body shaming has been linked to anxiety and depression and some research suggests people who feel discriminated against because of their weight were more likely to become or stay obese. A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found that fat shaming may also have serious health consequences. Researchers found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies are at greater risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease (a cluster of conditions that raises your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes).

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One misconception is that stigma might help motivate obese people to lose weight but it may, in fact, prompt the opposite: When people feel shamed they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with the stress, researchers say. Talk about counterproductive, huh?

So what do you do the next time a loved one starts body shaming you? Try one of these strategies:

Be clear.

Tell your loved one or friend flat-out that the negative comments are not helpful and then suggest things that would be helpful, such as joining you on a walk a few days a week or sampling some new healthy recipes together.

Ask for the criticism to stop.

If a friend or loved one keeps bringing up flaws they see in you, say something like: ”You say that you care about me and just want to help but you are not respecting my wishes to be more positive and that makes me question your caring.”

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Limit contact.

It may not be easy, but tell your friend or even loved one that if they aren’t willing to back off, you may need to start distancing yourself. You’re trying to make a positive change in your life and certainly don’t need the negative energy.