“Oh come on, have some dessert. It’s not like you look like these other women (insert man nodding in the direction of surrounding women). And really, a couple of pounds wouldn’t hurt you (insert same man looking me up and down).”
These comments came on the heels of a simple, “no thanks,” to an offer of dessert at a baby shower. Typically, I’m a fan of co-ed baby showers. But, in this moment, my blood beginning to boil, all I could think was “WTH are you doing here anyway?!”
I stood there, my mind practically frozen in disbelief at where this simple exchange had gone.
“I’m actually not hungry. And, the size of my body and the size of the rest of the women here are really none of your business” I responded.
He stared back at me unsure what to say.
And, as someone who typically needs time to gather her thoughts in any situation, I stared right back at him.
“I didn’t mean anything by it…” he stammered. Before I had a chance to engage further he darted away from me, disappearing into the crowd of women he had previously commented on.
“Girl, you shut that down pretty quick” a woman who had overheard the exchange said interrupting my mid-kicking-myself-for-not-saying-more-thought-process. She grinned and offered a high-five. Never wanting to leave a high-five unreturned, I obliged, but also shared that there was SO much more I wanted to say.
I wanted to tell him that his judgemental, fat and thin shaming comments only feed the global issue of keeping women stuck and small. That we are force-fed a belief that women should appear a certain way. And when they don’t, it’s assumed that there must be something wrong with them.
That focusing and commenting on size takes away from who a woman is, the life that she leads, the gifts she contributes to the world and the beauty that takes root within her heart and her mind.
That size doesn’t determine health. Studies are proving, over and over again, that size has nothing to do with health. It’s physically impossible to know if someone is healthy by how thin OR fat they appear.
That he doesn’t know how many years it took for me to turn down an offer of dessert without disordered motives behind it. Just because I turned down the dessert doesn’t mean I’m trying not to overindulge. It doesn’t mean that I’m dieting and avoiding sweets. It could simply mean that I’m full. That the cake doesn’t look all that great. That quite frankly, I’m not in the mood.
That globally, women are so consumed with counting their calories, their points, their macros and berating themselves for ”indulging”, that food becomes the enemy. Which only serves to spiral them deeper into body-negativity.
That for women to shift their relationship with their bodies and food to one of attunement, respect, and love it takes time. Healing. Intention. Support. Serious effort.
That his comments were laced with judgement and serve no purpose other than preventing women from actualizing their power. “I didn’t mean anything by it…” doesn’t excuse him or dismiss him.
That the more we allow these comments, the more ashamed and powerless women become, striving to show up how they “should” be instead of embracing and showing up as they are.
And, that the “should” only exacerbates to the overwhelming feelings of not-enoughness that so many women are oppressed by.
Ladies, you are worthy of loving yourself. You are worthy of showing up as you are and eating whatever you please, regardless of your size.
Why? Because you are you. Your gifts and your heart are so much more than your body. And, your body is so much more than something to look at.
Men, it’s time to stop body-shaming women. It’s time to tune into your what’s driving your comments and how they impact women’s opinions of themselves and one another. It’s time to support your wives, friends and daughters to see themselves beyond their body.
My body is mine. Hers is hers. Yours is yours.
My size, and the size of any woman’s body, is none of your business.
Sarah Herstich is a therapist and coach in Horsham, PA who works with women and teen girls struggling with body image and disordered eating. You can learn more about Sarah and her work at sarahherstichlcsw.com.