Body Shaming and Health

Have you ever been a victim of body shaming? It can affect anybody and take place in various forms. While I typically keep my Facebook page posts related to fitness, food, and travel, I recently posted something that turned out to be quite controversial and ultimately, some took it as body shaming.
Body shaming, by dictionary definition, is “the practice of making critical, potentially humiliating comments about a person’s body size or weight.” In this day and age, there’s a push in the popular media to love oneself no matter how you look, but as an RD, I feel like this notion warrants caution. Loving yourself is great, but health is also great, and necessary. Health, or lack thereof, can come in a variety of packages and typically, people view “skinny” people as healthy and those who are overweight as unhealthy. The reality is, only regular visits to your doctor, complete with blood screenings, can determine your level of health. There are some individuals who appear to have a healthy weight who may have risk factors for disease, and there are plenty of people who are overweight who do not. There are many articles on the internet about “TOFI/SOFI,” Thin or Skinny on the Outside, Fat on the Inside. According to the Huffington Post, such individuals have a low BMI (body mass index), but lack muscle and tend to store what body fat they do have “around the middle.” The MD who wrote the article noted that many of these people have some of the metabolic features of those with pre-diabetes: “low muscle mass, inflammation, high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure.” He adds such people also have risk factors for other diseases and notes the best way to assess your level of health and determine any risk factors for disease is through a blood test.
We can go from a seemingly visible healthy weight to extreme ends of the spectrum with anorexia and bulimia at one end and overweight and obesity at the other. While most people would agree the first are definitely unhealthy, (and they are), to some, the overweight and obese categories are muddled.
Regarding anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, here is what we do know. These statistics are taken, as they are, from, the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. (I referred to the original article and it seems as the wording, “eating disorder” in this peer reviewed study relates to anorexia, bulimia, and the like, versus the overeating that leads to excessive weight gain).
Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.
Eating disorders affect all races and ethnic groups.
Genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder.
0.9% of American women suffer from anorexia in their lifetime.
1.5% of American women suffer from bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.

Sadly, there are countless resources on the internet promoting and supporting “Ana and Mia,” anorexia and bulimia.
Let’s take a brief look at the some of the statistics and risk factors of overweight and obesity. These are taken from the CDC.
Over 1/3 of U.S. adults have obesity.
Heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes, and certain types of cancers are conditions related to obesity and they are all causes of preventable death.
$147 billion U.S. dollars is the estimated annual medical cost of obesity, and medical costs for those with obesity are higher than for those of a normal weight, $1,429 higher, in fact.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), since 1980, obesity, a preventable condition, has doubled. Additionally, most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. In a land when the majority population is overweight or obese, we need to focus on improving our overall level of health.
We can also teach to love and accept each other, which I agree is super important, but with that, I feel an emphasis should be on health. If you want to love your body, treat it right so you can live a healthy life. If I didn’t care about these issues, I wouldn’t be a good dietitian, I would be in the wrong field. Let me make something clear before I finish up. I do not participate in nor do I promote body shaming. I will say, however, I opt to not be supportive of those that choose not to live a healthy lifestyle. I do not try to push a certain lifestyle on others, but I offer my advice and opinion when asked and promote overall health and wellbeing in general. So, love yourself, yes, but do it in a way that helps you adopt a healthy lifestyle overtime. Buddha said “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth.” Why not work for both?
Did you know body shaming can also be directed at those who live a healthy life? Have you ever been a victim of body shaming? Feel free to comment below!

Author: Tiffany Batsakis

Registered Dietitian Fitness Fanatic World Traveler Food Lover Weimaraner Owner

7 thoughts on “Body Shaming and Health”

  1. Yes I have been the victim of body shaming. My brother an Olympic athlete used to tell me I had fat on my belly and pinch it. It made me feel less than the ideal woman. I never felt good enough bc I wasn’t the best. Ver sad how we can put people down with our words.

    1. Awe. Sorry to hear. Yes, what others see in us as “flaws” definitely doesn’t define our character or abilities. My mom is always the first to point out when I gain weight but I try to shrug it off and tell her it’s not exactly constructive criticism, LOL.

  2. Caught up on all the entries! I love the fitness and new foods focus. I love seeing the pictures too. Crashing the expensive hotels and gyms seemed fun! Great job! You are a great writer. It flows nicely and makes me want to learn more. Happy travels!

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