Body Shaming of Girls and Women: The Horrible Reality

Body Shaming of Girls and Women: The Horrible Reality

Body Shaming of Girls and Women: The Horrible Reality

Society has long equated beauty with thinness. But as trends evolve and body positivity gains traction and social acceptance, society's narrow definition of beauty is slowly expanding to include all body types.

However, growing social acceptance of diverse body types does not mean stigma against plus-size bodies has disappeared. A significant percentage of the general population still supports a distorted way of looking at others and themselves too, with hostility most directed at the plus-size community. Scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, it is hard not to notice plus size girls and women ridiculed by cyberbullies for embracing her body and showing skin.

Taking a Closer Look at Obesity and Fat Shaming

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one billion people around the world are at risk of obesity-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and other serious health risks.

As such, more people are aspiring to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle. However, the negative effects of body shaming on the self-confidence and motivation of plus size girls and women can discourage them from leading such a lifestyle, and, in fact, may contribute to unhealthy behavioral habits like caloric restricted diets, binge eating, or the opposite - stress eating - which may cause further weight gain.

Negative Effects of Body Shaming among Girls and Teens

Body shaming affects everyone. However, girls and teens are particularly vulnerable to body shaming because they are in a critical developmental stage where they struggle most with their identity, body image/insecurities, and self-confidence. One 2017 study found that 94% of all teenage girls have been body shamed. 

Body shaming is widely known to cause feelings of low self-worth, self-loathing, dangerous behavioral habits, social isolation, anxiety and depression, and even suicidal ideations. The simple fact is words have weight and power. Make sure to choose yours wisely!

1. Eating Disorders

It is a well-established fact that negative body image can lead to eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, and other unhealthy behavioral patterns with long-term effects on psychological and physical health and wellness. In fact, a significant percentage of girls and women who struggle with an eating disorder cite body shaming and cyberbullying as an initial trigger for their eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. Low self-esteem and negative body image associated with body shaming can also cause one to engage in compulsive or excessive exercising. Consequent injuries and fatigue associated with excessive exercising make one susceptible to illnesses and mental health problems

2. Anxiety and Depression

Body shaming, especially during adolescence, can trigger or worsen existing symptoms of anxiety, depression, poor body image, low self-esteem, and can even lead to extreme social isolation. Critical comments about your appearance, especially from loved ones, damages self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. This may cause you to engage in negative self-talk as you internalize feelings of worthlessness, and you start to define your entire worth by your appearance only.

3. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body shaming can also cause a distorted self-image. This, in turn, can lead to the development of body dysmorphic disorder, a condition associated with obsessive thoughts and harmful behaviors caused by perceived appearance flaws. Yet, insecurities and shame over a small flaw may not even be apparent to others. This obsessive “appearance scrutiny” may cause you to avoid mirrors, conceal body parts or features you perceive as flawed, make you more self-conscious and insecure around others, interfere with the development of healthy relationships, and become all consuming. In extreme cases, BDD can contribute to depressive disorders and suicidal thoughts and ideations.

Stop the Shame!

Body shaming simply does not work. It is counter-productive and often has detrimental effects on the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of girls and women. Instead, it is vital to promote a positive and supportive environment that encourages girls and women to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. If you or a young girl/teen in your life is the victim of body shaming, consider talking to a mental health professional or limit your/their time on social media. It is particularly important to keep an offline connection – invest more time in cultivating healthy relationships outside the realm of social media, and limit or minimize contact with bullies and toxic people.

Find a supportive network of positive people who uplift you and accept you as the beautiful person you are. We all deserve love and respect. No one should ever feel shame or made to feel less than because of their weight or size, because a number on a scale or a size does not define your intrinsic worth.

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