The New Age of Fat Shaming

Let me ask you something. Would you walk up to a person that you don’t know and comment on the way they look? Would you criticize the way they dress or the way they fixed their hair that day? Would you go a step further and tell them that they are unattractive or that they have an ugly face?

We’re doing that every single day. Every time we go on Facebook or Twitter and see one of those memes that has a picture of someone that looks like a hot mess and we share it. Every time we click like on a post that’s making fun of the big girl at the gym or the extremely overweight guy running around the track. It’s called fat shaming or body shaming. But for some reason we think its okay as long as we aren’t saying it to that person.

Many of us know the pain of hearing off-hand remarks about our weight. Many times they are not meant to hurt, but how could they not. I know what it’s like to have a boss jokingly refer to you as the “fat guy” in the office. I felt the pain of having a grandfather pat your belly and say that it looks like I’m putting on a few pounds. I’ve fallen off my diet and had coworkers comment on every crumb of food that goes in my mouth as if it’s the funniest thing they’ve seen. They do this for a lot of reasons. First of all, they don’t really understand how much it hurts. Second of all, it makes them feel better about the areas of their life that aren’t quite up to snuff.

It hurts. But you don’t say anything about it because you don’t want to be seen as a sensitive guy that can’t take a joke. But inside you feel like that 9 year old kid that just had someone call you fat or you found a comment about your weight written on a scrap piece of paper being passed around the class or written on the chalkboard.

But as much as that hurts, at least these things are being said to your face. What if you were cruising through Facebook one day and you came across a picture of yourself that was posted by someone you didn’t know. What if the picture was a meme that had something like “Fit to Flab” written on it?  I’m seeing this kind of thing all the time. I see memes of overweight people riding a scooter through Wal-Mart like it’s something for them to be ashamed of. I see videos of some big guy at the gym trying to work out and not realized he’s being filmed on someone’s phone for the world to laugh at.

In the beginning I actually laughed at a couple of these. Now I’m ashamed to admit that. There’s nothing funny about that. I’m living a life of obesity and food addiction. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I just didn’t want to face another minute of living in my body. I’ve felt the pain of having people judge you based on what they could see on the outside. What’s funny about it?

Look at that guy over there…trying to run his fat a** around that track! Isn’t that hilarious?
That guy is trying to get his life back. What is hilarious about that?

Look at that cow on the scooter! She’s so fat she can’t even walk around the store!
Or she may have a condition that affects her mobility which has led to depression and then weight gain.

What I’m trying to say is that judging people based on what you see is wrong. But then I suppose everyone bothering to read this far into this blog already knows that. I don’t think a lot of people realize just how much damage it actually does. Imagine the thing that you hate about yourself the most and then imagine people making jokes about it.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to see a meme of you.

Wentworth Miller is an actor. He stared on Prison Break back in the day. Currently he stars as Captain Cold on CW’s The Flash. After Prison Break was cancelled he went into a sort of retirement. Today I learned something new about him on a post he put out a few days ago on social media.

In 2010, at the lowest point in my adult life, I was looking everywhere for relief/comfort/distraction. And I turned to food. It could have been anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. But eating became the one thing I could look forward to. Count on to get me through. There were stretches when the highlight of my week was a favorite meal and a new episode of TOP CHEF. Sometimes that was enough. Had to be.

In the day and age of watching celebrities like Charlie Sheen have meltdowns that involve drugs and alcohol, it’s very rare to see someone actually talk about food as if it were something that you can have a real addiction to.

But Miller fell victim to fat shaming after he put on some weight and a paparazzi got a picture of him. It turned into a meme online that has been spread across the web.

In 2010, fighting for my mental health, it was the last thing I needed.
Long story short, I survived.
So do those pictures.
I'm glad.
Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without.
Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.

So, now I have someone new to look up to.  I haven’t always been a fan of his acting, but I am now a true fan of his spirit and of his courage. Fat shaming exists. It is a thing and it will continue to be a thing no matter what words I put on this blog. My hope is that one person sees this and realizes just how unfunny and hurtful those memes really are.
And I will leave you with more words from Wentworth Miller…

With everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness.

Of myself and others.

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