Shame on You (Not Me)

Times have changed. Weight used to be just a number that was checked at the doctor’s office. Pant size was a helpful way of finding clothes that fit right without having to try on the whole rack. Body image? I’m guessing some sort of x-ray.

Weight, size, and our bodies are a combat zone. If we are not already at war with ourselves, trying to make our digits conform to the cultural ideal or beating ourselves up with negative self-talk or punishing ourselves with exercise or another diet, others have taken the job upon themselves.

If there’s one word to characterize the state of our relationship with food, weight, exercise, our bodies, and ourselves, it would be shame. Shame means concluding that we are the problem, that we’re not good enough, and that we are flawed.

We are recognizing the weight bullying and shaming that is occurring on playgrounds, at  the workplace, and even in our own homes. People are essentially shouting “Shame on you!” with their glances, discrimination, and behavior towards people of a weight or size they judge to be unacceptable or even repulsive. Their goal, perhaps, through this shaming is to make us all comply with how they think we should look. Shame strips us of our humanity into just a body to be scrutinized and given a diagnosis.

 

The best or worst part about it is that shame is a choice. No one can call down shame upon you or force you to conclude that their judgment of you is acceptable, accurate or deserved. You can choose what to do with shame.

 

We have the power to stop shame and weight stigma:

  • Reject shame from all sources (including yourself): remember that shame is a choice, that we can say no…and then say it
  • Practice self-love (which includes body-love): this can take the form of acknowledging and meeting your needs, finding joyful movement and expression, and being authentically you
  • Take back your voice (it’s really not ok for others to comment on your body and your weight): set boundaries and uphold them; remember who you are–you are more than a body; you are a precious human being with a noble purpose
  • Be a model of peace with and appreciation of your body (and what it does for you): be at home in your body, kindle gratitude in your heart, and inspire others to look at their bodies in a new way and be present in their dwelling place
  • Treat others with dignity and respect regardless of size (analyze your own judgments): actions are the offshoots of beliefs; believe that everyone has inherent value and beauty

 

By beginning with ourselves, our thoughts and self-talk, we can eliminate weight stigma one person at a time. Let’s start with that person in the mirror.

***

*This post first appeared on BEDA‘s website for this year’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week: September 23-27 2013

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