If you’ve been on any social media platform or listened to the radio recently, you know that anything and everything body shaming has been one of the hottest and most controversial topics and from what we can tell, that’s not going to change any time soon. While some of these campaigns and articles have made positive impacts, other not-so-obvious body shaming messages have also been getting praise and we need to be aware of their subtle but detrimental effects.
Our relationships with food and our bodies are some of the most personal and impressionable relationships we have. They affect and shape all aspects of our lives. Although there have been major pushes for acceptance of all body shapes and sizes, the pressure, especially for women, to comply with an ideal, slim body image is still ever-present. There is a widespread misconnection between health, food choices and respect to others’ physical appearance and personal eating habits. In many cases, we don’t view “health” as the strength of one’s heart, or one’s daily exercise regime, but rather by one’s physical appearance, and further by how closely that physical appearance matches society’s idealized body image. This bias creates a multi-sided struggle between what we choose to eat and how we view others based on what they eat. In some cases, we praise and envy those who post pictures of burgers, cookies and ice cream sundaes while other times we label these same acts as reckless and gluttonous. And though what we eat should not really be anybody else’s business, sharing our food (and almost every aspect of our lives) on social media has opened doors for widespread comparison and inevitable judgement.
Why do we find ourselves caring about what others are eating or what others think we are eating? It seems that you can eat whatever you want, as long as you don’t look like you eat whatever you want. We follow Instagram accounts like @youdidnoteatthat and find it humorously refreshing, yet we praise those who showcase their similar plates. We love food porn, but if the people behind the camera appeared to be unhealthy, overweight or even unattractive, would we feel the same way? We praise people like Jennifer Lawrence for speaking out about not succumbing to Hollywood’s idealized body, but would we feel the same if Melissa McCarthy promoted the same message? We are constantly bombarded with ads promising to help us lost weight fast and in turn feel guilty about eating certain foods.
We pick and choose who gets a free pass to eat whatever they want and who has to suffer for their unhealthy habits. How we choose is far too often based on physical appearance. These body and food shaming judgments are the breeding ground for eating disorders, low self-esteem and unhealthy food obsessions. We have forgotten that health does not have a one-size-fits-all model and that physical appearance is not a direct representation of health. The body shaming conversation is far from over and perhaps food shaming is another one that should be brought into light.