Eat More! Eat Less!
People tell me that I needed to eat more because they thought I was ‘too thin.’ Or that I could eat whatever I wanted because of how ‘thin’ I was. People thought that I was unhealthy because I was so ‘thin.’ I wasn’t any of those things. I was a healthy amateur athlete. But no one wanted to hear that I was healthy. They were body shaming.
People told me the opposite before choosing healthier options and became an amateur athlete, aka the ‘skinny’ version of me. People told me not to eat that much and that I should watch what I eat. When I struggled with my body image, well-meaning people would say that I was ‘big-boned.’ Followed by telling me there wasn’t anything that I could do about my’ weight.’
Throughout the years, as my body has changed, athletic due to change in lifestyle, or heavier, as is the case currently, I have ‘luckily’ gotten to experience both sides of body shaming. What I have learned, and finally, internalized, is that it doesn’t matter how I look or how anyone else looks. There will always be people that will make you feel like shit about yourself. But only if you let them.
LOL (?) Body Shaming
Let’s take a deeper look at that ‘funny’ note. The sender thought it was funny as a reference to herself, a person who feels hot all of the time. When I read that, I felt sad because of how mean I found that note. And how it was so body shaming. And she thought it was funny because it was about her. She was body shaming and being mean to herself.
Interestingly, it was a bit confusing to me. If I modified the note’s language to mention fat people, I don’t think she would have found it as funny. So, who is the joke aimed at? The people who feel cold all of the time (skinny people) or the people who feel hot (supposedly fat people). Both groups. It is mean and body shaming no matter what body type you have. How would it feel if it were reversed?
Looking at the Pieces
It is possible that I missed something and it is funny. When I re-read it, which I did several times, I found not only that it is not funny, but there is an alarming message hidden there, besides body shaming.
The very first offer of a resolution is to have the other person move away. This idea of having the person or people that we don’t want around us has played out over history. Australia was a penal colony because no one wished for a prison in their backyard. The Jews and other ‘undesirables’ were sent to camps by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.
Let’s get an island and put all of the people that aren’t like us on it on that island. We don’t have to look at those people because they make us feel bad about ourselves. It is also saying that if you don’t like it, you aren’t welcome here. Instead of trying to get along, understand each other, move away.
Eat a Chicken Leg
All skinny people need to do not to feel cold is to eat a chicken leg? The assumption here is that people feel cold because they don’t have enough fat on their bodies. What the author of that note is saying is that get fat, you won’t feel cold, and then you will be more like me, and I won’t hate you so much. We will be on the same side.
I also imagine that the chicken leg has some significance to the author. Maybe someone told her not to eat so many chicken legs?
Research suggests that, under certain circumstances, average body size, not BMI, may play a role in how a person feels hot or cold. The same study also points out that many overweight people are more likely to feel cold because their brains are getting mixed messages between internal core temperature and their skin’s external temperature.1
Touchy Subject of Body Shaming
When I received that text with the photo, I wasn’t upset about it per se. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to discuss how people mean things off as jokes. And how as women, we should not do that to each other. We should be supporting each other instead. That did not go as I had thought it would.
I texted back that it was an excellent example of body shaming, and I would be posting it on social media as an example. The sender then texted an apology because they had offended me (they didn’t), which wasn’t their intention. The sender thought it was funny because the sender is always hot and I am always cold. The sender asked me not to post about it on social media and not send me anything ever again.
That was not exactly how I thought that would go. I like bringing awareness to things like that. Part of that, I believe, is educating ourselves and each other to be more aware. It is an opportunity to have conversations. I would have loved to have continued that conversation, but it was made clear that the person was not interested (or able to?) in having a discussion. It is also an excellent reminder that some people are not ready to have those types of conversations.