What's Your Body Shape?
In recent weeks I have managed two heartbreaking cases of young adults presenting with deteriorating mental health secondary to silently battling years of body-shaming by family.
Both individuals had underlying medical problems for which they were being treated. The conditions themselves were associated with other complications more serious than their weight. Yet, the reason they were seeing me was because they couldn’t cope anymore with the daily critical comments about their size, shape and shaming.
I see a fair number of young adults who are victims to peer bullying, online bullying or pressures from the image-obsessed media industry but to be victims to body-shaming by parents and older siblings in an environment that should be safe, is next level heartbreak.
Sadly body-shaming is becoming more of an epidemic affecting our society and it needs to stop.
My 5 year old recently watched a pop star performing on tv who was famously fat shamed. His words, “she is just so beautiful mummy, her voice is magical.” That is how we start off in life, seeing humans as humans irrespective of their shape, size, colour, gender, status.
Referring someone for psychiatric interventions due to internalised body shaming and negative self-thoughts is painful for any doctor.
Solutions to try end this?
1. Encourage children from a young age about a healthy lifestyle, give out positive body messages focusing less on weight and outer beauty and more on what’s within
2. Keep an eye on your child’s social media, online activity, it’s your responsibility to protect them.
3. Promote realistic and inspirational role models, who are yours?
4. Stop bullying when you see it. Be the advocate. Be the change.
5. Live with compassion and empathy and teach your kids this too. People get sick, illness is complex and we must remain sensitive to others at all times.
Let’s stop body-shaming and let’s start body-praising instead. A healthy lifestyle isn’t marked by a skinny body. Healthy lifestyles come in different shapes and sizes and that is what we must celebrate.