When Tess Holliday posted her Cosmopolitan cover on Instagram, she wrote,
“If I saw a body like mine on this magazine when I was a young girl, it would have changed my life.”
Size diversity in the media has been absent for most women for most of their lives.
To quote Laura Capon from Cosmopolitan,
“So, the fact that Tess Holliday – a (UK) size 24 woman – is on the front cover of Cosmopolitan UK, is a pretty fucking big deal.”
However, the cover of the October issue has social media in a fat shaming frenzy.
Carolyn Ross in I See Fat People writes,
“Obesity is the last frontier in tolerable prejudices. Whereas discrimination based on age, race, religion, sex and other protected characteristics is illegal, federal law (and most state and local laws) does not make it illegal to discriminate against people based on their weight.”
Research reveals that weight discrimination is launched on people from all directions. People in bigger bodies are shamed by participants and trainers whilst engaging in sports and exercise, by doctors and other health professions (including therapists), by judges and juries in court, by teachers in the classroom, other kids in the playground and mums at the school gate, by random people whenever they can’t find anything intelligent to say and of course by trolls and bullies on social media.
In It’s Time to Stop Fat Shaming, Denise Geelhart writes,
“Most people who fat-shame excuse their behavior by saying they are just concerned about the person’s health. They aren’t. They are bullies! They’re concerned about getting attention for what they say or the thrill they get in belittling a person.”
Many of the comments attacking Tess Holliday’s size acceptance are aimed at the fact that that she couldn’t possibly be healthy.
We have no idea about whether she is healthy or not. Size is not always a determinant of health. When I was in my eating disorder – I was thin, exercised excessively, restricted, binged and purged, smoked a pack of Marlboro Lights a day, drank Cherry Coke and shoved copious amounts of amphetamines up my nose to suppress my physical and emotional hungers. Now in a bigger body – I am clean, recovered from bulimia, I exercise regularly and I mostly eat a wholefoods diet.
Could I step my self-care up a notch? Yes.
Does it mean that I or anyone else in a bigger body deserves to be fat shamed? No.
Perhaps you think that by fat shaming someone you will be able to help them to lose weight and be healthy? Think again. Ross goes on to say,
‘Rather than motivating people to lose weight, weight discrimination increases the risk for obesity by as much as 2.5 times. This, in turn, makes individuals more vulnerable to weight discrimination, perpetuating a cycle of weight gain.’
Maybe you think you are doing the person in a fat body a favour by pointing out their size. Capon writes,
“No-one is more aware of their body than a fat person.
Until you’ve been unable to buy the clothes you want, or watched a guy in a bar nudge his mate and laugh at you as you walk by, or sat in the office as your colleagues discuss how fat they feel, because being you is literally their worst reality, you will never understand.”
When you fat shame someone, you are sending the message, ‘you are worthless’. Brene Brown writes,
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure.”
Fat shaming someone causes trauma to their soul. Everyone, regardless of body size or shape deserves to be treated without harm and with respect.
If you are living in a curvy, round, voluptuous, big, chunky, fat, larger than life (whatever you feel comfortable with!) body and have internalised weight stigmatization and the thin ideal, now’s the time to work on accepting yourself and your body as you are right now. Instead of fat shaming and tyrannizing yourself into that next diet, please be kind to yourself, move your body in ways that you love and redirect your focus from weight loss to health at every size.