As many of you know, I have a direct sales business too. That business has allowed me to meet thousands of woman over the years and make some amazing friends. I have one extremely loyal client, who has a show every year and refers me to all of her friends. I thought that she and I had an actual connection, beyond the business relationship, and considered her a friend.
Once I had the weight loss surgery and started quickly dropping weight, she began to pull away from me. She follows me on social media and I noticed that she started to make snarky little comments about my weight and health. When I was about 5 months out from the surgery and down roughly fifty pounds, I saw her at a friend’s home show. She was distant and complained during the entire demonstration. I thought it was strange behavior, but brushed it aside thinking maybe she was having a rough day.
When I contacted her recently to set up her annual party, she declined, which she has never done, and was very standoffish. And that’s when it hit me; this client, who happens to be overweight, is skinny shaming me. When I put the whole picture together – the comments, the brush off, the shift in attitude – it all goes back to when I started losing weight.
It’s like when I was fat too, we could be friends or have our own little chubby gal club. Once I started losing weight, my value to her faded away. I’m assuming she thinks I no longer understand her life, I have changed or I am judging her for her weight, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Now that I have been on both sides of the spectrum, I feel like I can better understand the good and the bad of both sides.
What is skinny shaming?
We have all heard about fat shaming, but few people are talking about skinny shaming. According to psychologist, Dr. Jamie Long, fat shaming is
an act of bullying, singling out, discriminating, or making fun of a fat person. The shaming may be performed under the guise of helping the person who is overweight. Fat shaming is an individual bias against people who are considered unattractive, stupid, lazy, or lacking self control.
That same definition could work for skinny shaming too. When I lost weight, I also lost friends and clients. People have made fun of me and said that I have “chicken legs” now. Some people thinly disguise their comments as an attempt to show concern for my health. It all sounds an awful lot like fat shaming in reverse, doesn’t it?
Skinny shaming happens to lots of women
I assumed this type of thing was only happening to me, but when I asked about it on social media, other women started coming out of the woodwork to tell me their stories about being skinny shamed. The women that I spoke with lost anywhere from 30 to 200 pounds and did it in various ways. Some had surgery, some went to Weight Watchers and some changed their exercise routine. For all of them though, they experienced resistance, rude comments and backlash for their weight loss.
They told me about friends and family members who constantly told them that they “looked sick” or were “getting too skinny.” People tried to offer them sweets and would sabotage their efforts by planning events focused solely on food. One woman even told me that a close friend of hers said that she “wasn’t as fun as she used to be.” When I asked her why she thought the friend would say that, she replied that she thought it was because they didn’t sit around and binge on junk food anymore.
What was surprising to me was that the vast majority of the negativity came from close family members and friends. It was usually a mom, sister or best friend who was skinny shaming these women. One woman told me that when she regained the weight, all the comments stopped and the relationship (with her mother) went back to the way it was.
All of the women agreed that the comments were made out of jealousy, not out of actual concern for their health, but even knowing that, they still hurt. Plus, when you are under a constant siege of negativity about your weight, it makes you wonder if maybe you are getting too thin or taking it too far. When the people you trust the most in your life are offering you advice, even if it is unsolicited, you tend to listen.
I completely agree with the women I talked to for this article. I understand that skinny shaming comes from a place of jealousy, but it hurts just the same. When people make comments about my weight or body shape, it takes me back to junior high, when the cattiness and body shaming first began. Every little dig chips away at my wall of self confidence that I have work extremely hard to build up. And it is even more difficult to block out these comments when they are coming from “friends.”
The thing is, I didn’t lose weight for anyone else; I did it for me. I did it for my health and so that I could live longer, have more energy and spend more time with my family. Do I enjoy looking better in my clothes? Yes, who wouldn’t? Did I lose weight to impress someone else? No. Did I lose weight to make someone else feel bad about themselves? No. So why do other people think it’s ok to try and make me feel bad about taking care of myself?
So for now, I will continue building my shields and let those little digs bounce off of me. This process has taught me who is truly supporting me and my happiness and I’m moving forward with those people in my life.
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