What does body shaming mean? Let's explore the phrase

Written by: Ilbey Ucar – PhD (Psychology)

Last updated date : November 18, 2022

In current society especially it’s not uncommon to hear certain phrases being used. Body shaming is one of them. But what is the definition of body shaming? What does it mean? It’s a topic that’s part of many conversations today but how many of us actually know what the phrase entails? If you’re someone looking for answers to such questions, this article just might help you. It aims to provide a thorough yet simplified explanation of the definition of what body shaming is to help you understand it better. Given its nature of being a much-discussed area at present, awareness of it could be helpful. So if this is of interest to you, keep reading.






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Chapter 1:

The realities of body shaming

Firstly let’s focus on the definition of body shaming. Body shaming is the act of mocking or criticising a person based on their physical appearance. These can for example be in the form of comments that are negative or uncalled for. It can be about the size, weight, height, or colour of a person’s body. Anyone can experience body shaming, regardless of how old they are or what their body type is. However, unfortunately, fat individuals experience it more often..

Body shaming can have serious impacts on people and one sad reality is that it can come from just about anywhere. This is because it’s integrated into the cultures of many societies. And so it shapes the perspectives of people belonging to that culture and influences their opinions and beliefs. For several people, their first encounters with body shaming have been from their families. Some people experience it through their friends. Various forms of media can also be sources of body shaming, for example through social media or tabloids. We can even body shame ourselves without intending to sometimes. .

Chapter 2:

The impacts it can have

Now that the definition of body shaming has been looked into, we focus on the impacts that it can have. No one likes to keep hearing others make mocking or critical comments about their bodies. It’s an unpleasant and often unwelcome experience. Furthermore, it can negatively impact people psychologically. It can shape their thoughts, change their behaviours and affect their emotions. Of course, this may vary from person to person but many people struggle with body shaming when they face it. This is understandable because such comments can be hard to hear and get over. Many people are already conscious about their appearance. Being body-shamed can make this worse for them. They could become overly conscious of themselves and become preoccupied with how they look. They could become overly conscious of themselves and become preoccupied with how they look.

It can go on to affect their mental health and physical wellbeing too. People can develop mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders. Their self-esteem and self-confidence levels can also suffer. Because of the impacts, it has on people mentally they can be impacted physically too. For instance, depression can change their eating and sleeping patterns and increase the chance of harmful behaviours. Body dysmorphia and eating disorders can cause behaviours such as over-exercising and restricting food intake or self-induced vomiting. All these can be harmful to a person’s life. It may be hard to believe the impacts words can have on the mind and body of someone but this is the reality. This is why body shaming is very harmful.

Chapter 3:

How to handle body shaming

Although things are changing and the culture of body-shaming is being addressed in societies today, the issue is still not fully removed. This means that it is still present. Because of this something that can help people, should they ever face body shaming, is to know how to handle it. This knowledge can help people not become affected by it.

1. Remember to not let it get to you

This seems obvious but it helps to keep reminding yourself about it whenever the need arises. This is indeed one thing that’s easy to say and hard to do. Nevertheless, reminding yourself can allow you to do your best in making sure such comments don’t get under your skin. It’s okay to work on forgetting or ignoring the negative things people have to say. Sometimes it comes from a place of hate, sometimes jealousy, and sometimes it can just be because people irresponsibly use their words without thinking about the impacts the words can have. Whatever the reason, the healthy thing for you to do is leave their words in the past and not carry it into the future.

2. Also remember why people body shame

This can be helpful too. As mentioned above, body shaming is something that stems from certain places. And why remembering this is important is because it allows you to see that the problem may actually lie with those that body shame and not necessarily with you. For instance, it could be because they hold certain narrow-minded beliefs about physical appearance. It could also simply be for the reason that it affects them to see your appearance so they feel the need to say something harsh about it. Or it could be that it makes them uncomfortable to see you be comfortable in your body. Just remember to not take what they say to heart because what they say stems from negative or close-minded places.

3. Accept how you look

Self-acceptance is a very liberating thing. There is something about coming to terms with whatever aspect of yourself, in this case, your physical appearance, that’s freeing. A lot of people struggle with their body image because of the messages put forward by agents of socialisation such as the media for instance. These influence the relationship people have with their bodies from the time they’re very young. However, learning to accept how we look and embracing these aspects could bring appreciation and even love towards ourselves. These could in turn determine the extent to which you get affected by body shaming. It minimises the chance of it happening.

Take the scenario where someone is mocked for their size, colour, or height. If these are things they don’t like about themselves then it can add to their feelings of self-hatred or insecurity. Basically can affect them a lot. But if this is someone who accepts these features of theirs, there is only a little chance that the things someone else says will affect them.

4. Call out sources of body shaming

As mentioned above, body shaming comes from many places. And dealing with it when it happens is important. It’s important to speak on the issue and to say something when you see it happening. Having conversations about issues is a good way to attempt to bring about change. This is because some people actually listen learn and try to do and be better. So for example, if you see or hear someone’s body shame don’t shy away from bringing it up with them. Tell them things like why it’s wrong to have such opinions, the impact their words can have on the other person, and also the image they create of their character by body shaming others.

Another example is if you see it happening through media channels, don’t think it’s unimportant to speak about it. Bring light on it, share about it. Doing this on the internet, namely on social media, could mean that what you post can reach the eyes of many people. And so this can get many people talking too.


"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount