I too have shamed my own body from time to time, even though I'm overall pretty comfortable with it. And despite the positive reinforcement my family or even my fiancé gives me, I still find things about my physical appearance I'd like to change.
It doesn't help that everyone seems to participate in personal body bashing, so you almost feel too self-assured if you don't. Analisa Arroyo, Ph.D at the University of Georgia, tells Women's Health that part of the reason we all do it is because it's become what society expects of us. Plus the communal commiserating feels oddly comforting, especially if you get a "what are you talking about, you look awesome" out of it.
So if everyone self-shames, no matter their size, does that mean it's just a fact of life that we should accept for better or worse? The simple answer is, absolutely not. Personal body-shaming does a lot more harm than you may realize, and letting yourself or your loved ones fall into it time and again is essentially allowing an unhealthy social disease to perpetuate.
1. It may actually be making you gain more weight
A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who think they're overweight to begin with tend to gain more weight than people who don't. Researchers looked at data of 14,000 people between the ages of 23 and 45 from three previous studies and found that those who classified themselves as overweight tended to gain more weight over time.
2. You become much less likable and it doesn't actually create a bonding experience
According to a 2013 study conducted at the University of Notre Dame, people who body-shame themselves aren't making friends quickly. Researchers had college-aged females look at images of noticeably overweight or underweight women who made either body-positive or body-negative comments about themselves. The overwhelming response was that no matter their physical size, the self-shamers were much less likable to the subjects. Alexandra Corning, who ran the study, said, “Though it has become a regular part of everyday conversation, ‘fat talk’ is far from innocuous."
3. It's hurting your mental health
Having a negative opinion of your body could have serious consequences on your mind, especially if you're a teen. A 2009 study published on Center for Advancing Health said high school students who think they're overweight (regardless of whether they actually are) have a higher risk of committing suicide than those who don't. Now imagine those same teens growing up into adults, all the while still harboring those negative opinions. Suddenly the escalating number of millennials on antidepressants makes a whole lot of sense.
4. You could more likely to develop an eating disorder
Women who genuinely believe they're fat, regardless of whether they've dealt with outward or inward fat-shaming, develop eating disorders more often. It's hard to pinpoint which came first — the eating disorder or their negative self-image — but regardless, according to several studies, they seem to go hand in hand. If you find that you're having trouble stopping the flow of negative comments to yourself, and it's effecting your eating habits negatively, don't be afraid to see a therapist or counselor about how you're feeling.
5. You're allowing this harmful social habit to continue
The only way to stop self-body-shaming from hurting more and more girls and women is to curtail your own personal habit of doing it to yourself. Whether or not you realize it, your offhanded, self-shaming comments and jokes only serve to keep it around as a societal norm. The more you do it with your friends, the more you're enabling them to do it around their friends, and so on, and so on.
While it's OK to want to improve yourself, it's not OK to hate on your body. Just like any other addiction, it's doing just as much harm to the people you love most as it's doing to you. Think about that the next time you say "I hate my thighs" in front of your 15-year-old niece.
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