Body shame is a scam.
Sit with that phrase for a minute. Really take it in and think about it.
It might not be an easy pill to swallow. After all, no one likes to admit that we’ve been duped. But it is nothing to be ashamed of: The diet and weight loss industry has successfully scammed us for so long that the idea that our bodies are shameful has become the default; an ever-present part of our society; a whole culture in and of itself.
But the good news is that we don’t have to continue to let ourselves be scammed (and I’m speaking from experience here).
Like most of us, I grew up steeped in diet culture and a fear of fatness. It took a lightbulb moment over a decade ago to start unlearning all of the things I’d always taken for granted about bodies, beauty, and value – particularly my own.
I can’t remember exactly when the phrase “body shame is a scam” first started kicking around in my head, but I do know that once I had that realization, there was no going back.
Naming body shame for the scam it is was a game changer for me, and one that probably stemmed out of a tip I’ve found particularly helpful for combatting body shame:
Question, question, question! Whenever you find yourself thinking that you “should” change your body or lose weight, make an effort to stop and question where that thought stemmed from. For most of us, there won’t be just one source – we’ve been steeped in a culture that values thinness highly our whole lives, after all – but I can often isolate one source that kicked a particular toxic thought up to the top of my mind if I try (be it an IRL interaction, an ad; a before and after pic on social; a commercial; or whatever it might have been.). At that point, I ask myself the question that I think we should all ask regularly: Who profits from this thought?
The answer is almost never *you.*
It might be the plastic surgeons who offer liposuction, double-chin reductions, and countless other procedures to “fix” fatness; it might be the multibillion-dollar diet industry hoping to reel you back in to a lifetime of dieting, gaining it back, and dieting again; it might be the all-too-large segment of the modern “wellness” industry that is simply the weight loss industry in sheep’s clothing; but it almost certainly is not benefitting you.
All the messaging that your body isn’t good enough doesn’t do a single thing for your health or well-being: After all, we don’t take good care of things we hate.
So keep questioning why you are tearing yourself down, and remember that these industries will keep profiting from us if we let them.
I first wrote that a couple of years ago when the 72 billion dollar diet and weight loss industry was gleefully taking advantage of a worldwide pandemic to create a brand new way to market body shame: The “Quarantine 15.” That very phrase is a blatant example of the audacity with which the weight loss industry will try to scam us. How gruesome and shameless do you need to be to harness a tragedy that killed millions to try to make survivors feel worse about themselves? But that is the way they keep us buying into their scam: They are relentless in finding new and clever ways to make sure we never stop hating our bodies, all so they can line their pockets selling us ways to “fix” them.
Fortunately, being able to recognize body shame for the scam it is is the first step to escaping its clutches. And because so much of the scam’s power lies in its ability to be everywhere, unnoticed, I’m doing a month-long series dedicated to calling it out and breaking it down. I’ll be sharing examples of how it works, context and data to highlight just how harmful it is, and tips and tools to help us unlearn internalized body shame and begin healing from the harm it has done to us. And I want it to be a conversation, because it is much easier to make progress if we do it as a community. So come join me on Instagram and TikTok to talk about it all January with #BodyShameisaScam!