2 naked womenIs anyone obsessed with weight, continually comparing body sizes, always watching what they eat or dieting, working out constantly or perhaps judging others who are overweight?

How many people know someone that deals with weight issues?

Is anyone obsessed with weight, continually comparing body sizes, always watching what they eat or dieting, working out constantly – or perhaps judging others who are overweight? Welcome to our messed-up, skinny obsessed culture.

And really, I’m talking mainly to the ladies, although men are definitely affected by weight discrimination, weight stigmas and weight bias too.

There are an estimated 8 million – that’s right 8 million people in the US alone that have some sort of eating disorder.

And eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness.

Why am I bringing up eating disorders with the topic of weight discrimination and body image? Because they’re kissin’-cousins. We live in a nation obsessed with body image. We despise fat and worship thin.

We’re bombarded constantly with images of what a person’s body, especially women, are supposed to look like and almost all images are unrealistic with incredibly thin physiques often airbrushed to look ‘perfect’ – whatever that means.

And let’s not forget about a multi-billion dollar beauty industry that would go out of business if these false perceptions of what a ‘normal’ body looks like changed.

Let’s face it, our culture values physical appearance and youth over inner beauty and strength, so it’s probably not too shocking there’s a multitude of people unhappy with their bodies and appearance.

People starve themselves and/or obsessively work out constantly, trying to achieve the unachievable in most cases. So what happens if you are not the minute percentage of the population that has the idyllic so-called ‘normal’ body type and are a larger, plus-size person?

Bring on the attacks, judgments and fat-shaming.

What’s fat-shaming? It’s essentially a weight stigma or weight-based discrimination against anyone who’s overweight or commonly referred to as ‘plus-size’. Really it seems in our culture it’s often anyone that isn’t the size of a frickin’ Barbie doll.

People who are fat-shamed are ridiculed, humiliated, ostracized and made to feel inadequate at a bare minimum. And in addition to being judged and discriminated against, often the plus-sized person’s body is somehow associated with lower intelligence.

Can you say WTF? We are really reaching with this particular discrimination to think an increase in body fat or size lowers a person’s intelligence.

If that isn’t enough, fat-shaming can be both external and internal so plus-sized people feel discrimination from the outside but then all too often internally feel ashamed, insecure and depressed and blame themselves as if they’ve done something wrong which they haven’t.

“Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media,” – Dosomething.org

What brought this topic to my attention was a friend Sammi Rivera, who’s a plus-size woman, experienced fat-shaming last week when she went to a restaurant for dinner.

She sat down and proceeded to order a chicken teriyaki dinner turning to her friend to see if she would like to share it with her.

Her friend said yes, then ordered chicken fried rice for herself. According to Sammi the server giggled and said, “Wow, that’s a whole lotta rice” and proceeded to look them up and down, i.e. their bodies, as if to insinuate that they were going to eat everything in one sitting.

The server continued as she explained loudly to the cook that she needed all of the food for only one order. Then added it was a lot of food for only two people.

The server returned with their order rudely saying, “Well I don’t know who gets what…but here you go” – to which Sammi said, “Well it doesn’t matter because we are going to share”. The server giggled and walked away.

After a moment they both decided they were too uncomfortable to continue eating there and asked for to-go boxes and were further shocked to hear her yell, “Well now they want boxes to go for all of that food”.

As they hurried to box up their food Sammi’s friend turned and said, “I’m so sorry, I’ve never had anything like that happen. We won’t go here again.”

“I was very upset and hurt by this interaction, not only because this was my first ever fat-shaming but because people are so quick to judge and assume things about a person. I have lived a majority of my life as a plus-sized woman, even during my high school days, I weighed in at 350 lbs, almost too big to buy clothing at a plus-sized store.

I have lost over 120 lbs since then but it still upsets me when people judge me” – stated Rivera adding,

“I shouldn’t have to explain what I needed to order at all since I am paying for it with my own money.

How did she know that I ordered food intentionally to have leftovers? How dare she assume that we were going to eat everything in one sitting! And even IF I was going to eat it all in one sitting, why did she care? Why was it her business at all to say anything?!”

Why did that server care so much? Perhaps because she’s inherited the same bullshit ideas that we all have in our culture about body image and weight. We are all victims of the culture we are raised in, like it or not.

We are taught at an early age all sorts of ‘isms from racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, ageism to weightism. And if you’re like me, you are continually trying to break free of these — well lies, and be aware and empathetic of what other people experience.

I have recently blindsided myself when I offered to take my nephew clothes shopping last summer. (They gave me permission to tell this story by the way). I suggested we head over to H&M or Forever 21 to which they replied, ‘I usually can’t find clothes in my size at those stores’. My heart sank when I realized how oblivious I had been.

I asked them if they had had many fat-shaming and/or body shaming incidents. They said more often fat-shaming and fat-phobia exist in a realm of disgusted looks, ‘concerns’ or comments. Their favourite was when they go to the gym and people say things like, “Good for you! If you can do it, so can I!”

“This is so hurtful. My body does not need to be corrected, and my body doesn’t exist for someone else’s ‘thinsporation.’ And that’s really what all this is about: Fat bodies aren’t respected or considered human the way a ‘normal’ body is.” – they remarked.

I am encouraged when I see and hear more people coming forward and openly sharing their experiences with fat and body shaming, and what being plus-size is like in this thin-obsessed culture.

But we as a people really need to consider deeply what it is we truly value? External or internal beauty? I do believe that every time we have an open dialogue about issues such as fat and body shaming, the power that discrimination and oppression decreases.

By calling it out, bringing it to each other’s attention and seeing the human being behind any ‘ism, we are collectively saying – enough. The more that happens, the more we will inevitably chip away at all of the lies we’ve been taught in this culture.