“The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.” - Oxford English Dictionary
Standing in the middle of the Mall of America with my newborn son in a back splitting BabyBjorn, another son on my hip and my 3-year-old crying his eyes out, I was body shamed.
Not nearly as bad as some women are, but believe me, it still hurt.
I am not sure how this other woman, who very boldly came up to me to protest her thoughts and judgment, couldn’t see the bags under my eyes, the sagging in my back from carrying these three boys around and the exhaustion oozing from my every pore.
No, instead she chose to criticize me.
I was wearing a T-shirt with Cookie Monster on it that said, “Me Love Carbs.”
She stormed up to me, looked me fiercely in the eye and said this: “YOU love carbs? Yeah right.” Then flipped her head as if she was the all-knowing-all-being voice of this world.
I didn’t say a thing. I wanted to. I wanted to yell in the atrium of this enormous mall some foul and rude comments back to her. Mostly I just wanted to say, “Do you know ANYTHING about me!”
What she DIDN’T know was that I almost died from a life-threatening eating disorder. That I struggled with depression. And that having three little boys under the age of 3 was killing me. She couldn’t see me. She could only see what SHE THOUGHT she could see. My weight. My body.
“Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ― Wendy Mass, The Candymakers
What is wrong with us? Why do we keep doing this to each other? What brought this memory to mind recently was not only the barrage of patients I work with who tell me how fat, gross and disgusting their bodies are but the constant stories in the media of body shaming.
Did you know that the suicide rate in the United States has risen to an all-time high?
“Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.” ― New York Times
Am I making a leap here about body shaming and suicide? No. Because what people also often don’t realize is the epidemic of eating disorders in our culture. They are rampant.
“It’s no surprise that eating disorders are on the rise throughout the world. With the rise of global Westernization, technology advances, and cultural shifts, a rise of the idea of an ideal body shape and size has affected most all parts of the world. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, up to 70 million people (both male and female) suffer from eating disorders.” - Eating Disorder Hope
Why is this important?
“The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old. Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, the mortality rate falls to 2-3%.” - National Eating Disorders Association
Yes, Obesity is a problem too. I am not ignoring that, but the more we talk about obesity the more we see the increase of eating disorders.
“One of the unintended side effects of talking about an obesity epidemic is to create an eating disorders epidemic, so we have to be very careful about how we talk about weight and eating and healthy lifestyle.” - Harvard Political Review
All of this is connected. And it starts with EVERY WOMAN. You and me.
I am tired of seeing 14-year-old girls hating their bodies. I am tired of seeing grown women sending letters to newscasters telling them to lose weight, like our local newscaster here in Minnesota.
I am tired of watching us berate and beat on each other about the size of our bodies. No one is born wanting to lose weight. No one is born thinking they are fat. We do it to each other. I urge us to stop. Please.
You are more than a body. You are more than a size. You are brave and beautiful, you women of this world! Please go be that. Go be you. We need each other. We need to help the next generation of young women rise up and be strong and brave and beautiful. It starts with us. It starts now.