What Is Skinny Shaming and How Can It Be Dealt With?

Written by: Janine Mack – B Sc
(Psychology)

Last updated date : March 31, 2022

Often when many people think of body-shaming they usually imagine it is towards those who are overweight. However, the reality with body-shaming is that any body type can experience it. Of course, fat people are likely to face it more often. But ‘skinny shaming’ is not uncommon. It’s just that sometimes this type of shaming is overlooked or not taken as seriously. If you’ve never heard this phrase before or you have but you’re not sure all that it entails, this article is here to explain what skinny shaming is. Besides this, as you read on you will also come upon tips that showcase how to deal with skinny shaming.

Chapter 1:
Realities of Skinny Shaming

Skinny shaming occurs when people criticise or mock the bodies of thin people and make negative comments about it. These can stem from places of hate, jealousy as well as ignorance. Whatever the way it comes from, skinny shaming can negatively affect people mentally and emotionally. Many times those who make such comments don’t consider the impact of their words and they mindlessly speak it. This is especially bad because often those who are skinny shamed have a high metabolism. What this means is that your calorie intake- which happens when you eat- is burned fast. Because of this, it can be hard for people to gain weight. So their size is not something they’re in control about though without knowing people think this way and shame them about it.

Some of these comments can be outwardly offensive but some can be subtle yet hostile. Examples include “You’re only skin and bones”, “Being thin is nice but you’re too thin”, “You look like a skeleton”. There can be food related comments such as “Eat more and put on some weight”, “Are you dieting?’, “Look at my size and look at you- you’re so lucky”. People even comment about how they think certain clothing is unsuitable, saying things like “Wearing this makes you look even thinner”, “This would look better on someone with curves”. 

It is not hard to understand how hearing these remarks even once can affect some people. And usually, those who face skinny shaming have to deal with it on more than one occasion from different sources. It may be family members or “friends” or just people you know. And in most instances, it’s difficult to call them out on it because you don’t want to cause issues. As a result, people just endure skinny shaming.

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Chapter 2:
Why Do People Skinny Shame?

There are some reasons why this happens. One is beauty standards which are established and perpetuated by society including various agents of socialisation. These standards consider thin bodies as attractive. And many people feel pressured to conform to these standards. However, the size and shape of people’s bodies are not always things they can control. This is because factors, namely biological, contribute to how they naturally are. Some people are naturally thin, some are not. And sometimes this creates body envy and jealousy because people desire bodies that are hard for them to achieve without effort. They have to constantly do various things like exercise and watch their food intake to lose weight. Because of this, they tend to resent or feel jealous of those who have naturally thin bodies and do not have to do this. And so they let out their frustration through skinny shaming.

Another reason is also because of these beauty standards which are often unrealistic. Curves are often seen as attractive along with thin bodies. Because of this, many times the ideal body is considered to be thin and curvaceous. However, the reality is that many thin people don’t have this feature to the extent seen as “attractive”. And this too can lead others to skinny shame them, calling them “too thin” or “flat” which is a very common insult. 

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Chapter 3:
Ways Skinny Shaming Affects People

Sadly skinny shaming is something that causes a range of negative outcomes. It affects people emotionally and mentally and this can create impacts on their physical state too. Not everyone will be able to ignore or dismiss comments made about their appearance. It can alter their moods and cause negative emotions to rise. Additionally, their thoughts and behaviours may be influenced as well. The more people are exposed to something, the greater chances it has of impacting them. They may begin to see and think of themselves from the viewpoint of those who skinny-shamed them. This will shape their self-talk and most of the time this will become negative.

Their self-esteem and self-confidence can suffer. Sometimes it can also result in the development of body dysmorphia. Also, if thoughts change then behaviours can change as well, as there is a link between the two. These behaviours can be unhealthy and even harmful to their health and wellbeing. Examples include body dysmorphic behaviours such as changing the type of clothing they wear, disordered eating (like eating to put on weight than to nourish and be healthy), self-harm.

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Chapter 4:
How to Deal with Skinny Shaming

Unfortunately, even though the world is gradually moving towards being more accepting it does not happen overnight and not everyone will change their beliefs. For reasons such as this, it’s good to know how to deal with skinny shaming. In this way even if the sources of body shaming don’t stop it and change their ways, it will not affect and get to you. Listed below are some ways that can help you do this:

1. Practice self-acceptance

This is key when having to deal with any type of body shaming, which includes skinny shaming. When you accept how you look and come to terms with it, the things that others say won’t affect you at all or affect you as much. Acceptance of your body doesn’t happen overnight and there is a range of little ways by which you can do it. Some of these include being kinder towards yourself and embracing your uniqueness. Additionally, it could also help to manage insecurities which is something that can greatly shape a person’s reaction to body shaming.

2. Expose yourself to sources of body positivity

Body positivity is the movement of going against social norms of what a beautiful body looks like and spreading positivity and acceptance towards all body types. This helps people to feel comfortable with the various aspects of their bodies they once wouldn’t have felt that way about. Being surrounded by body positivity can help people break away from feeling like they have to meet the standards set by society to view themselves and be viewed as attractive. It can also help them cultivate healthier mindsets. Seeing positive body role models makes people at ease in their skin and this can limit how much skinny shaming would affect them. 

Today with the presence of social media in our lives it is easier to do this. There are many people running pages that promote body acceptance and positivity and help others in their journeys of doing the same. Being mindful about your social media experiences and tailoring them to fit your needs and boost your wellbeing helps. One way in which you can do this is by limiting your exposure to content that brings you down (by unfollowing for instance) and increasing your exposure to content that makes you feel better instead. Many people are now curating their social media timelines to have more positive social media experiences than negative ones.

Additionally, associating with people who are body positive is also important. A person who has friends who skinny shame them is not a sign of healthy friendships. It can be unhealthy and damaging for the person who is being skinny shamed to experience this. It is good to seek out better, healthier connections. This could help people become more comfortable and confident in their bodies.

3. You can try to speak up to those doing the skinny shaming..

It is hard to tolerate negative comments directed at us, without a doubt. And sometimes we feel worse when we do nothing about it and allow people to get away with skinny shaming. Addressing this problem for example by being vocal about it can make us feel better and more empowered. It could even result in those who skinny shame others actually altering these behaviours because they had to face the consequences of their actions.

If you’re skinny shamed one way to deal with it is by addressing it with the person who did it. Don’t shy away from confronting them even if they’re close to you. Often, silence enables the continuation of behaviours. Therefore make sure to make some noise. Have conversations about it, express how it feels to hear what they say. Some people body shame out of spite but some do out of ignorance too because they don’t realise the impact of their words. So for instance explaining to them how damaging what their doing can be may result in a change of their behaviour or in how they feel about it. 

4. ..Or not and just remove your presence from those spaces.

This is a valid way to handle the situation as well. Dealing with body-shaming is hard: it is tiring, it causes a range of emotions, and can affect our thoughts. One way that can lower the impact it has is just removing yourself from the situation. Not everyone can tolerate it and have a conversation about it with those who body-shamed them and that is okay. Sometimes it’s healthier for you to just walk away from it and not give it your time and energy. Not everyone is going to be understanding and change if you were to have a conversation about it with them. It is mostly because some peoples body shame on purpose. So chances are people like that will not change easily. So don’t waste your effort in trying to get them to. It’ll only affect you more and make them feel better.

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Chapter 5:
End Note

It is a sad reality that many people have to endure and deal with skinny shaming. Unfortunately, it is not something that will completely vanish from society soon. Therefore one of the best ways to handle it is just by doing what you feel is right and preparing yourself just in case. You cannot change all the reactions others have towards you but you can change your reactions to them to protect your mental, emotional and physical health. So work towards always being able to do this. Good luck!