More than 70 percent of women in a new survey say they have felt stigmatized by family, friends, and yes, even doctors. Here’s how to stop being fat shamed and get the respect you deserve.
You are enough.
Before we can address being fat shamed by others, we first need to look at our internalized shame. “A thing is good not because it’s thin or ‘perfect’ but because it fulfills its purpose,” says expert Amanda Martinez Beck.
“And the purpose of our body is the relationships it allows us to have with loved ones, a higher power and ourselves,” she explains. “It’s unfair to ask yourself to jump right to, ‘I feel good about my body,’ but if you can start with body neutrality, repeating the mantra, ‘You are enough,’ positivity will come with time.”
Honor your body.
“You weren’t born thinking one size is better than another — you learned it,” says expert Judith Matz. That means you can unlearn it. “You should be treated with dignity at any size, so show yourself that respect with behaviors that support your body, be it sleeping more or incorporating physical activity you enjoy, not that you feel obligated to do. Freedom from internalized weight stigma stems from self-compassion.”
Take control in the doctor’s office.
A brief script will help you get on the same page with your healthcare provider, assures Beck. “Tell them, ‘I’m here to receive weight-neutral care, the same parameters of health used at every size.’” You can also decline to be weighed. “The number on the scale is an unreliable indicator of wellbeing,” explains Beck. “Metrics like blood sugar and cholesterol are much better reflections of health.”
Or walk away.
Feel empowered to sever ties with a dismissive doctor. “You hire him, and you can fire him,” notes Beck. What to look for in a new healthcare provider? “Ask if they have blood pressure cuffs for bigger arms; too-small cuffs may give a higher reading,” she says. And look around, adds expert Caroline Apovian, M.D. “Do they have chairs for patients of every size? Are their gowns big enough? These signs point to an inclusive environment.”
Set boundaries with your family.
When friends or loved ones say something about your weight, consider responding with, “Please don’t comment on my body,” says Beck. “It’s tough to know what to say in the moment, so you can circle back later: ‘When you said X, it was not welcome input.’” Leave emotions out of it because if you let them know how they made you feel, they’ll likely just say, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” leaving the door open to doing it again. This way, your statement is clear, concise and final.
Never settle for less.
If your partner is critical, Beck suggests reminding him that you are peers. “You can say, ‘We are in a relationship of mutual respect, and when you comment on my body, you are being disrespectful; if you care about me, you’ll stop.’” But what if he says he’s just worried about your health?
“Tell him that health is about more than weight — it’s like a four-wheel truck with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components. You need all four wheels inflated at the same time. If he respects you, he’ll listen.” That goes for everyone in your life, she declares. “You don’t have to settle for anything less than you deserve.”