The Problem with Body Shaming Other People

I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of people are engaged in body shaming. So I thought it would be good to look at who we shame.

We shame people who we perceive as overweight and we also shame people who we consider underweight. In fact, there’s a lot of body shaming going on.

What is shaming? It’s making the other person feel bad about themselves; feeling not good enough, not as good as the rest of us, somehow lacking in value. When we shame someone, we make them feel inferior to us, and like they are not worthy of belonging to the tribe.


First, people mistakenly believe that overweight people are out of control. And this being “out of control” is threatening to the person doing the shaming. They’re shaming the overweight person because they’re terrified that they might themselves lose control or already somehow be out of control.

To the shamer, the overweight person is a threat, because the shamer has their own urges and impulses that they’re trying to repress. And maybe they’re not that successful at it. But, as opposed to the overweight person, they can hide the fact of their out-of-control urges and impulses because they’re not overweight. There is no visible sign that they have a problem.

Overweight people are most at risk of being shamed because they have the most obvious addiction. It seems obvious that they have an issue with food. Other people with addictions can more easily hide their problem.

The shamer attacks the overweight person so that they can feel better about themselves. They say, “see, the fat person can’t control themselves, but I can,” even if it’s a lie, even if they are completely out of control in some other way. They can say to the world, “see? I’m in control, but this heavy person is not.”

We shame people who we consider underweight because we perceive them as “trying too hard” to achieve a perfect degree of thinness. It’s as if we’re all supposed to try really hard to be “thin enough” but we shouldn’t try so hard that we become “too thin.”

The fact that “thin enough” and “too thin” are ill-defined concepts doesn’t seem to be a problem for the shamers, any more so than the very loose definition of “overweight” that is used in the media today.

Another reason why people might shame those who they consider “underweight,” is that they are envious of the other person’s physique. Sometimes people use shaming as a way to attack someone who has something that they want. If this person is thin in a way that they could be, they might shame them when really they want to be like them.

This is why shaming exists. And it’s important that the people who are being shamed can get together and stand up and say, “no, no more. I will not be shamed because of my weight. I will not be shamed because of my size. My body belongs to me and you have no right to comment on it.”

Shaming makes people feel so bad about themselves, that at worst, it can lead to suicidal thoughts, and even to completed suicide. Shaming can be extremely toxic because it isolates you and it makes you feel separate from the tribe.

For the shamers, they need to look at what they’re afraid of. If they have their own covert addiction, it would be better for them to deal with it directly, rather than putting down somebody else. And if they’re shaming people for being “underweight,” they need to look at their issues around being judgemental or jealous and sort it out on their own.

Shaming never does anyone any good. The person being shamed is isolated and attacked. Shaming doesn’t help them “improve” anything. It just makes them feel bad. And the shamer doesn’t actually feel better for putting other people down. If they want to improve their self-worth, they need to do it directly, not by hurting other people.


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Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series

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Marcia Sirota

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series