The media may not talk about it much but it is a humiliating experience, at times, to be overweight. This is what I call the humiliation of weight.
When I was 20 I gained about a stone and a half while on a three-month Erasmus programme in the Netherlands. My boyfriend at the time kindly organised a surpise party for me on my return. I remember my mother suggesting I wear something nicer to go to the cinema (she was aware of the party of course, whereas I was sure we were going to The Usual Suspects in my nearby cinema).
My gruff response that I was just fine in what I was wearing (baggy cords and a jumper intently tied around my waist). Boy did I regret it. The surprise was on my guests’ faces as their jaws fell to the floor when I entered. My face was puffy and red; almost unrecognisable. And I remember the embarrassment when I looked back at the photos. But I’m one of the lucky ones. I lost weight, and life became instantly easier; not just in the day-to-day of enjoying being back in my jeans, but also in terms of how I was perceived. It’s not right, but people interact with you differently when you’re no longer overweight.
A Culture of Ridicule – the Humiliation Of Weight
I was recently at a pool that had a ‘wave-rider’ – kind of like a huge slope that you can ‘surf’ on for entertainment. I refrained but my friend braved it with her children. Afterwards she came over to me and recounted the story of a very overweight girl who attempted to ‘surf’ but it was too powerful for her and she was flipped over. This resulted in her bikini top ending up around her waist. People were apparently laughing and pointing. I was so appalled to hear this. One man even called his son over to come watch and laugh at her. My 11-year-old girl witnessed this. So, in those moments, she learnt that it’s okay to laugh at someone for being overweight and for landing on her face while trying something. I’m still reeling at it. And I think it is my responsibility, and my husband’s, to discuss with her why we think this is so wrong.
Our culture seems to think it’s okay to laugh at ‘fat’ people. This is known as ‘fat shaming’. I’ve had clients who tell me that teenagers laugh and – without permission – take photos of them, and that shop assistants or bar tenders act like they’re invisible. Worse still, some have been called the most abusive, degrading names by passers-by in cars or on the street. I can’t repeat some of the things I’ve heard here as they are so upsetting. I’m sure, like me, you’ve also received plenty of what’s app ‘jokes’ at the expense of overweight men and women. I saw one with an obese woman walking down the road in a bikini; it was apparently hilarious in that she didn’t have any shame and proudly displayed her body. But I didn’t find it funny. In fact, I found it inspiring that she didn’t care less. How brave, I thought, in a society that tells us that to be successful we must conform to a size 8 or 10.
The New Move To Embrace Diversity and Do Away With The Humiliation Of Weight
Thank goodness there is a wonderful movement taking place right now. Have you noticed? It’s as a backlash against society’s fat shaming. The voice is strong and clear. It says, “I will no longer be shamed’. My sister has introduced me to some fantastic Instagram sites that embrace ‘real’ body types (or ‘bare’ faces, without make-up) and I believe this is a great to show our teenage children. We need to try to balance things – not just for our children, but also for ourselves.
At Motivation, we embrace all body types. We want you to be healthy and fit, but we aren’t ‘hung up’ on one ‘ideal’ size, and we hope to convince you of the same (it’s all part of our programme which involves teaching you healthier habits AND attitudes).
In fact, I have often heard myself telling friends and family that the most beautiful women and men that I’ve encountered are those who lose excess weight, yet they are still are a size 12 or 14. They are happy in their skin. They don’t feel the need to reach that ‘perfect’ size 10. There is nothing sexier or more attractive than that. We are here to encourage you to get healthier whilst learning to love the body you’re in.
There is no ‘ideal’.
It varies from person to person.
If you eat well, sleep well and get enough exercise, then that is what it’s about; it’s not about a figure on the scales. Read our recent blog on why NOT to weigh yourself here.
Get Real on Instagram
Comparing ourselves to ‘perfect’ bodies and faces is a road to nowhere, but we keep doing it. If this is you, maybe it’s time to delete Instagram from your phone? Or, instead, learn the ways in which social media is also offering a platform to those who are willing to show how proud they are of their bodies, no matter what their size. These women are trying to push back against edited Instagram photos that pull in waists and accentuate hips and breasts; that edit out arm fat or jowls and that add protruding bums and lips (don’t get me even started on the Kardashians or I’ll rant here!). The body-positive movement has begun and it’s not about telling people to be unhealthy or to shame people for being thin. Instead, it’s about supporting us all to have higher self-esteem and to appreciate our bodies for the rally incredible things they do for us.
Prepare to be Inspired – The Other Side of the Humiliation of Weight
Chessie King: @chessiekingg (blogger)
Amy Schumer: @amyschumer (actress and comedian)
Real Women Project: @real_women_project (group of women being real)
Positive Body Image: @positivebodyimage (twin Canadian girls)
Winnie Harlow: @winnieharlow (model with vitiligo, a skin condition)
Love your Lines: @loveyourlines (celebrates stretch marks)
Honour Curves: @honorcurves (one woman’s journey to get fitter and healthier while embracing a new love for her body)
Jameela Jamil: @jameelajamilofficial (actress/model/presenter & activist)
Celeste Barber: @celestebarber (Australian comedian who parodies celebrity culture brilliantly) – you’ll be holding your sides laughing (well I was!).
We’d love to help you to feel fitter, healthier and to love the body you’re in. Come chat to us about how we could do this – book an assessment today.