Proud2Bme | Fat Shaming Won’t Bring Me Down

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Fat Shaming Won’t Bring Me Down

By Jennifer Simpson--Fat shaming runs rampant in our world today. From ad campaigns that promote getting “beach body” ready to online comment forums criticizing someone with an eating disorder, fat shaming surrounds us. It’s the last acceptable form of discrimination. This is my story of being fat shamed.

Trigger warning: Descriptions of eating disordered behaviors. 
 

I graduated from my master of social work program in May of 2015. To celebrate, my boyfriend and I went on a wonderful cruise to Mexico. We were checking in for our cruise when, apparently, one of our bags began falling over. I had my back to the situation as I was speaking with the woman at the counter and giving her our paperwork, but my boyfriend grabbed the bag before it fell over and I didn’t think much of it—until this older woman began yelling at me about it falling over on her, and complaining that it really hurt her leg (my boyfriend told me it barely grazed her, as he caught it in time). In any case, she continued going on and on about this, finally saying “The least you could do is apologize!” So, exasperated by her causing an unnecessary scene, I said “Geez, sorry!” Her response: “Yeah, that sounded really sincere! Here’s a tip: lose some weight!”

Now, how a dispute about a bag barely grazing her became a platform for her to attack me because of my weight is beyond me. There’s no logic to it at all. I brushed it off though, and the person checking us in was sweet and said, “You are beautiful and that was completely uncalled for and entitled on her part.” We went on and had a lovely, relaxing cruise.

However, it is likely that woman has friends and probably even family members who would be considered overweight—part of me wonders how they would have reacted to her attack on me. I also view her attack as immature, befitting of a five-year-old. She was trying to hit me where she thought I was vulnerable but, fortunately, I’m done with my eating disorder and diets and all of that.

But it speaks to a bigger issue in our world today. What upsets me is that people, not just this one woman, think it’s okay to speak to a perfect stranger in that way. I have a few friends going through their own eating disorders and I fear that if they were faced with this attack, their eating disorders would take over, or that they may even attempt to take their own lives.

Fat shaming is not okay, no matter how you slice it. Society has absolutely no idea what that individual may be going through. To take myself as an example, what if I were still starving myself and running insane distances in an attempt to leave the weight behind? What if, like some of my friends, I were fighting bulimia, and that attack triggered me to go throw up in the bathroom and refrain from eating on my vacation? What if I felt so shamed by that attack that I felt it necessary to remove myself from this world? That woman is lucky I’ve healed. Saying that to someone who was in a vulnerable place could have resulted in death, be it via suicide or via a severe turn in their eating disorder. And the sad part is that neither of those are farfetched responses when someone is battling an eating disorder.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my approach to food. The diet mentality is strong, and I am realistic. But I do expect all mankind, including myself, to be treated with the basic respect all individuals deserve. Attacking someone for their body composition, as if it were a moral flaw, is not okay. That person you’re attacking? You have no idea what they’ve been through. You don’t know their story. Perhaps they have health complications leading to a higher weight. Perhaps, like me, they have fought an eating disorder and are still relearning how to eat without restricting foods. Perhaps they are still fighting their eating disorder and your comments only make their ED stronger. Or perhaps that person just really likes donuts or pasta! It’s not your business, it has no impact on your life and being overweight is not a moral flaw. So how about we stop treating it like it is?

I take comfort in the fact that I did not respond to that woman, as much as I wanted to. I take comfort in the fact that others who overheard were as outraged as I was. And I take comfort in my belief that she’ll have to deal with karma in the future. As much as I wanted to educate her in that moment, she wouldn’t have heard me and likely would have hurled more hate my way. I elected to take the high road. And at the end of the day, sometimes, that’s all you can do.

We, as a society, need to work on loving each other. Did I handle that situation perfectly? No, I didn’t. But I am also human and I make mistakes. If you want to attack me for that, you can tell me that I wasn’t very polite or kind about that situation. That I did not validate or understand the other person’s feelings. That would be a completely valid assertion. But going for the low blow is not okay. It is never okay. And the very real fact is saying those words to someone vulnerable could quite literally result in their death. Think about that the next time you want to criticize someone for their weight.

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.
 

About the blogger: Jennifer is a San Diego native and has been in recovery from her eating disorder since January of 2014. She holds a master of social work degree from the University of Southern California and plans to obtain her clinical license in the near future. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys playing with her three pet rats, paddle boarding on the bay and body surfing in the ocean.

For more on body image, check out:

Yes, We Still Need Body Positivity

5 Reasons Why Self-Love Matters

Your Ultimate Body-Shaming Survival Guide

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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