According to the dictionary: Body shaming is defined as inappropriate negative statements and attitudes toward another person's weight or size.In today’s times too, what is considered attractive in one culture may not be considered so in another. Various experiments have been done over the years where one image was sent to designers across the world, asking them to make the girl look ‘beautiful’. What came out as a result of this experiment was interesting. And that is – There is no universal concept of beauty. In China, the girl was made skinny and in Columbia, a lot more curvy. The colour of the skin, length and colour of the hair and many other aspects differed in each and every example.
“You’re too skinny, put on some pounds. Those jeans hang on you”.
“So chubby your daughter is”.
“You’re looking lovely, have you lost weight?”
Sounds familiar? How many of us have heard statements like these, every day. How many of us have unknowingly made statements like these too. At what point being ‘healthy’ got replaced by being ‘slim’, is a matter of much debate. But body shaming is a sad reality that we all have inadvertently been a part of and continue to be a part of.
The ‘Perfect’ Body
It may be a term that has been gaining popularity recently, but body shaming has been around for centuries altogether. Victorian women were strapped into corsets that were so tight that they could hardly breathe. In China, small feet are considered beautiful, so legend has it that women would bandage their feet while growing up to make sure they remained small (and thus became disfigured). However, the ‘perfect’ body type differs over time periods, cultures and countries. There is no ideal body type that is universal.
Body Shaming and Children
What this brings to light is the fact that this ingrained ‘body shaming’ attitude in us needs to change. And it needs to change now, before we raise our children in such a way that they have a pre-conceived notion of ‘beauty’ and ‘attractiveness’ too. This affects their confidence levels and we end up raising under-confident children who are constantly comparing themselves to their peers and to picture-perfect models on magazine covers.
Below are some pointers on what we can do to change this way of thinking:
1. Replace ‘pretty’ with ‘healthy’. When complimenting your child, don’t tell them that they look pretty or handsome. Say words like healthy, strong, your skin is glowing, etc.
2. Make them choose healthy foods from a younger age. It shouldn’t be a punishment, make them prefer the healthier alternatives by innovating in the kitchen. A healthy body is an attractive body.
3. Be an example yourself. Get into fitness, yoga and clean eating. Not to lose weight, but to build your core strength and to be healthy.
4. Do not talk down about anyone’s body shape in front of your children.
Healthy vs Pretty vs Thin
The only way to change the course of this tide is to change our own perceptions. Slim does not necessarily equal healthy. You can attain a slim waist by going on crash diets or you can attain one by eating nutritious foods upto the calorific requirement of the body and by working out to remain fit. The latter is a more long-lasting solution, a lifestyle change that will make you look good as well as feel good. We are in no way propagating obesity or an unfit body. Calculate your BMI and make sure that you are in the recommended category. If not, make lifestyle changes slowly to get there and maintain it. At the end of the day, it is not about one’s thigh gap. What should matter is your heart health, your cholesterol levels, bone strength, your stamina and other such things.
The next time you watch a movie and comment on how ‘fat’ the actress is looking, stop right there. Body shaming needs to stop. And it needs to start with you.