We're all aware of the dangers of fat-shaming others, and why it's a thoroughly awful thing to do. But have you done any examination lately of the terms you use on yourself, and whether you treat fat and your own body with shame and disgust? It can be far trickier to change behavior about our own lives and bodies than it is to shift what we do to other people. So how can you detect if you're fat-shaming yourself if you're not physically standing in front of the mirror every day going "Ugh"?
Fat-shaming is usually in the news when it's directed at other people: the "Overweight Haters" cards handed out to women on the London Tube, for instance, garnered much-deserved outrage from around the world, as did comedian Nicole Arbour's tone-deaf "Dear Fat People". But every girl in a Western country has heard herself, or a peer, say "Yuck, I'm so fat" in her teen years, and hear a chorus of "No, of course you're not!" from reassuring friends. This is the sort of behavior that self fat-shames; when we look at ourselves through the lens of "thin = attractive," and criticize and punish ourselves if we don't fit that mold, we are letting fat-shaming into our own heads and attitudes to our bodies and sexuality.
Here are seven signs that you may be fat-shaming yourself. If it sounds like you, examine how you think about beauty, weight and your own body, with some hard home truths if necessary. You deserve better than fat-shaming, particularly from your own head.
1. Thinking Of "Pretty" And "Thin" As Synonyms
If your regular mode of assurance from others that you're beautiful, worthwhile, sexy, or pretty is centered around thinness, you're basing your self-acceptance around your weight. Making "beautiful" and "thin" mean the same thing is an act of fat-shaming, and if you use it against yourself, as many of us do, you're putting yourself in the way of needless self-criticism.
2. Remaking All Compliments Into Comments About Weight
Ever done this? Somebody says "Wow, you look great!" and you instantly, without thinking, respond "Thanks! I've lost five pounds!" Or perhaps if somebody says, "Wow, that's an old photo of you, you looked different," your response is "Ah, yeah, I was heavier then". This is an extension of the whole weight-calibration thing: it's as if there's nothing else as important or as praiseworthy as thinness, and any physical compliment worth taking must include that element. ("But you have such a pretty face!" is an exception. That's somebody fat-shaming you. Kick them.)
3. Keeping Smaller Sizes "Just In Case"
Many people who are trying to lose weight keep clothes a size too small in the closet to motivate themselves to fit into them, and it may be a powerful tool. But it also seems to have connotations of fat-shaming. Look at these items your current body cannot accommodate! Look at how pretty they are! Isn't your body a failure for not fitting into them? You can see how this can easily go into fat-shaming territory.
4. Having Sex With The Lights Off Because You Think You Look "Bad"
Your comfort and pleasure are, of course, the prime objective in sex, but insisting on lights off, covers on as universal practice is basically you saying to yourself, "I cannot look at myself as a naked, sexual body without being unnerved or upset, and I can't trust the person who's taking me to bed not to feel equally unnerved and upset". It's bodily shame, in its most vulnerable form.
5. Using The Phrase "Problem Areas" About Yourself
Way to give words about weight some pretty judgemental connotations, guys. Whoever came up with this concept needs to have a serious lesson in etiquette, but talking about yourself like a sliced-up machine, with "problem areas" that need to be "fixed," is dehumanizing and demeaning to your body. A heart that needs a pacemaker is a problem area. An artificial foot that keeps falling off is a problem area. Weight loss for health is fine if that's what you and your GP have decided is the best course for you, but your body is loved and beautiful and wonderful even if you've chosen to change it.
6. Considering Certain Foods "Bad" Or "Evil"
Amy Schumer tackled this one better than anybody else, but the basic point still stands: giving foods associated with weight gain moral tags, like "bad," is not helpful, because it implies that eating them is morally wrong or shameful, and that if you choose to "indulge" then you're doing something immoral instead of exercising your adult right to put whatever legal thing you want into your body. If you chastise yourself for eating a "bad" food, it's as if you're almost fat-shaming yourself preemptively.
7. Practicing Constant Body-Comparison
Self-comparison seems like such a good idea when you're doing it. That person's thighs! Her stomach! Her slender neck! But what seems like praise can often turn on you as castigation that your own thighs/stomach/whatever don't look like that. This is part of the Instagram fitness-model problem; it's wonderful to celebrate athletic women rocking at what they do, but many women then turn the photographs into sticks to beat themselves with. We have to get into the habit of praising without comparing, or else we end up in a fat-shaming spiral whenever a new photo of J.Lo's body appears on our screens.
The Bottom Line
If this sounds like you, don't shame yourself for fat-shaming yourself. Just note the behavior, and try to keep your inner critic in check. These habits are incredibly common and sadly universal for most women. It isn't easy to change your habits, but there are concrete steps you can take to stop criticizing yourself all the time — or at the very least, to notice it when you are.
Images: Alexey Dulin / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images, Giphy