Do You Eat at All?
There is an issue I have been battling with in my life for a while... It is called "body shaming" or as I'd like to call it "You look uniquely different, so I'll make you feel bad about it"
Here are my thoughts:
Let's look at an actual definition for it. According to www.bodyshaming.org, body shaming is defined as inappropriate negative statements and attitudes toward another person's weight or size. Let's look at another definition from another source that is NOT dedicated to body shaming. According to www.macmilliandictionary.com, body shaming is considered the practice of criticizing people publicly for being too fat or, less frequently, too thin.
I consider body shaming as negative statements or actions on one's body size, facial construction, and any other body parts and/or their attributes.
Examples of body shaming on overweight individuals could be, receiving disgusted looks from others, while eating, comparing one's body size to another individual of a different body size, bullying and harassment by friends, relatives, or even one's significant other or strangers. When I talk to some of my close friends and relatives, I hear pain, guilt, sadness, frustration, low self-esteem and perceived pressure to lose weight. I can't help but relate, except I am not overweight and have never felt unnecessary pressure to lose weight.
Some individuals tend to think that when it comes to body shaming, only overweight individuals are involved. I would like to clarify and assure these individuals that overweight individuals are not the only ones who experience these issues (although they are addressed more frequently than any other body type) but also, underweight and naturally slim individuals like myself experience it as well.
Yes, I have never felt pressure to lose weight and I am not overweight, but I have experienced the same pain, guilt, sadness and frustration over my body size and weight. Coming from a country like Nigeria, if you are not a little "thick" in all the "right" places, it means you haven't been eating enough, or you're undernourished. You might even be considered to have come from a poor background because you're not "full fleshed and then some." So you are body shamed just like the overweight individual that comes from the western culture.
Living in the United States and growing up in the school system along with my peers, I experienced the same issues one would experience in a different culture like Nigeria. In my case, I was bullied, and received negative comments such as "are you sick?", " you should really eat more", "Try a fried chicken diet for a week", "Do you eat at all?", "try eating lots of ice cream", do you have a terminal illness?" "She’s African, that's why she's skinny", “You remind me of a stick figure”, and “I hope you never have an encounter with a tornado. (Blows air at me as a joke)”, etc. I did get over these comments and advices because I also had people who were positive with me about my weight. It was really hard, but I had eyes to see. Rather than going on weird food diets and forcing myself to eat more than normal, I chose to seek advice from a medical professional about why I was not gaining weight like my peers. She assured me that I was normal and that all I needed to do was focus on being healthier. So, I chose to accept this body and do what I could to make it healthier.
What some individuals don't realize is that genetics are a big factor when it comes to one's ability to lose and/or gain weight. As women, we need to understand that although, we all may have similar organs and reproductive systems, our bodies are not the same and should not be treated as such. We need to realize that we all have different body shapes and sizes and what your body might be capable of doing is not necessarily the same as what another woman's body is capable of doing. For example, I am not incapable of gaining weight just like an overweight woman who has been trying really hard to lose weight is not incapable of losing weight.
I believe that we as women need to serve as sources of encouragement to those who, in our opinion, may not be going through the same difficulties with weight as we are, just as we are to those we can compare ourselves successfully to.
Body shaming is one of the many things that society has produced to affect us negatively. It does not motivate a woman to get healthy or continue to be healthy. It does not allow a woman to accept her body as unique and beautiful. It fosters feelings of rejection, sadness, frustration, and even mental and/or eating disorders; which can be fatal.
The fact that society must place an individual in a category based on their looks is very puzzling to me. Why should my looks define who I am? My hair type, the color of my skin, the size and shape of my body. Who cares? I was created in the image of God. I should not be placed in any of society's categories. I choose not to look a certain way, according to society's preferences, I choose not to dress a certain way, according society's preferences and I choose not to change anything about myself physically, according to society's preferences . Society did not give me life.
Don't agree? Genesis 1: 26 - 31 NIV says
"Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day."