Shaming can lead to negative body image struggles

Shaming can lead to negative body image struggles

Women who are considered overweight and who may or may not wish to lose weight often receive unwelcome comments and critical looks from family, friends and even strangers. Whether well-intentioned or not, critiquing overweight women is known as fat-shaming.

At the other end of the spectrum, women who are exceptionally thin, especially those who struggle to gain weight, also receive unsolicited advice. Skinny-shaming, or thin-shaming, occurs when a comment such as, “eat a hamburger, you are skin and bones,” is made to a woman who is underweight.

“Whether overweight or underweight, women’s bodies are routinely discussed and critiqued – by men, by other women and by the media – which can lead to unhealthy, and even dangerous, body image struggles,” says Dr. Sudhir Gokhale, psychiatrist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.

Women at both ends of the weight spectrum and every weight in between can be made to feel insecure and ashamed of their bodies.

“Both skinny-shaming and fat-shaming are part of the bigger issue of body-shaming, or making others feel ashamed about having a body type that is different from what society considers normal,” Dr. Gokhale says.

Constantly feeling judged over appearance can lead to over-eating, anorexia nervosa, bulimia and other eating disorders; anxiety, depression and other psychological issues; and compulsive tendencies toward things such as exercise and cosmetic procedures, Dr. Gokhale says.

Dr. Gokhale offers the following advice to anyone struggling with body image:

  • Make an appointment with a nutritionist if you would like help losing weight or gaining weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet. This has been shown to improve your mood and energy levels.
  • Endorphins released during exercise help boost your mood and exercise can help you feel better about your appearance, which will improve your confidence.
  • Remember there is no “normal’” body type. Women come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Know that the photos you see in magazines are retouched, often excessively. Do not compare the real you to a retouched photo.
  • Make an appointment with a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist if you suffer from any eating disorders, psychological issues or compulsive tendencies.

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About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”