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The Shame in Fat Shaming

The New York Times recently put out an opinion article entitled “The Shame of Fat Shaming” discussing the chronic societal issue that is “Fat Shaming". This topic was recently revived following a comment made by Donald J. Trump regarding a former Miss Universe champion who gained weight. Mr. Trump’s comment sparks concern since it sends a message to young people—especially women—everywhere, enforcing negative ideas around food and weight.

Here at BC, the stereotype of a “health conscious,” “active,”  and “beautiful” campus are great at face value. Like most compliments, students are flattered, to say the least, by this designation. However, the problem with these sorts of labels is that they add fuel to what I perceive to be a growing, yet “hush-hush,” problem here on campus: an unhealthy relationship with food.

This problem is parasitic, making it even more dangerous than people like Donald Trump care to admit. Small comments that receive big press (for example, the Miss Universe remark) have long term effects on a public audience. Each remark has the potential to plant a seed of doubt into the minds of those who hear it. Furthermore, the more someone hears insults and jibes about weight, the deeper they fall into a negative cycle of questioning and constant self-assessment.

This issue is at the core of eating attitudes here at BC. I say attitude because the problem is not necessarily the physical act of eating, but rather with the comments and conversations surrounding it. I have stood by one too many times (keeping in mind I have been here a little over a month) when friends or even strangers have more or less asked permission to grab a muffin for breakfast or eat a cookie after dinner. Growing up, we are taught to be confident in ourselves and our decision; in fact, much of our college experience is supposed to be about “finding ourselves.” However, obstacles arise when we are unable to find security in decisions as basic as feeding our bodies.

It should be noted that, no matter how much society protests, this hesitancy is not our fault. Rather, it is a culmination of negative attitudes and stigmas surrounding food and weight that slowly creep into our heads. This is why Donald Trump’s comments are problematic—not only because they suggest that fat shaming is somehow OK, but also because the ramifications of these remarks are not limited to those struggling with obesity. Attitudes like Mr. Trump’s validate any fears those struggling with self-confidence might have about their bodies.

Let’s face it: students are overworked, exhausted, and all-around overwhelmed. We have midterms to study for, relationships to uphold, and extracurriculars to keep up with. We simply don’t have time to think about the nutritional details of each meal. Food is supposed to be synonymous with happiness, family, and love. When we reach for the blueberry muffin it should be just as enjoyable as hugging a best friend. I am not naive; I know maintaining a positive relationship with food can be tough, but I also know that there is a way to fight fire with fire.

Clearly, students rely on the opinions of those around them so much that they feel the need to ask for advice on their eating patterns. So isn’t there an easy fix? We need to start changing these conversations from fearful requests for food to excited hopes for experiences. We need to eliminate insecurity from discussions about food and stop allowing men and women of power (i.e. Donald Trump) to shape public perception of what is and is not acceptable.

Personally, I don’t want to have to assure my friend that it is OK for her to eat the muffin, and I don’t ever want to feel the need to ask whether I can eat the muffin, either. Fat shaming is a shame, but so is how negative our dietary attitudes have become. So next time anybody, whether it be a high-level figure or just another student in line at the dining hall, tries to turn food into a challenge, it is our duty as active members of society to help turn food back into what it used to be: a universal language that has brought people together for ages.

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