Fit-Shaming, Fat-Shaming: Do You Play the Shame Game?

Fat Shaming Fit Shaming

Fat-shaming. It’s the all-too-common practice of making someone feel shitty because they’ve gained weight. But what about fit-shaming? Basically the same thing, except you make someone feel bad because they look…good?

Nobody likes the prettiest girl in the room.

It’s nothing new and it’s easy to do. I’m just as guilty as anyone of hating that girl at the bar. The one with the gorgeous hair and body. The one with the skirt that’s just a little too short. The one everyone’s staring at. In the past, that girl might have had to endure nasty looks or a frosty silence from the clique huddled around the sinks when she pushed open the bathroom door. But nowadays, when tons of us post a million selfies a day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the whispers become shouts as people comment, like, or don’t like.

And call me out if you don’t agree here, but I feel like this is often a girl-on-girl crime.

I’m a fitness professional. And in the online fitness world, where bodies are on constant display, it takes my breath away to see how mean women are to each other. When an accomplished athlete posts a picture of herself winning an award for bodybuilding, the hecklers come out by the hundreds. “Gross,” they say. “U look like a dude.” People feel the need to criticize, correct, or make fun of others doing their thing, just trying to be in the best shape they can be.

Nobody likes a showoff. But if you work hard for something, why is it offensive to put the results on display? What is it about seeing another woman who has something we don’t that drives us to snarkiness, or even downright cruelty?

Here are some comments I’ve been on the receiving end of:

“You’re so lucky you have so much time to work out.”

“You’re so lucky to be skinny.”

“Wow, you’re getting…muscle-y”

“Oh come on, you can eat that. Don’t be so into yourself.”

“It’s not gonna kill you to miss one workout.” Eye roll

I’ve devoted much of my life to fitness. I work out 5-7 days a week, 1-2 hours a day. I eat in a very conscious and somewhat restrictive way. Therefore, I also look a certain way. A way that I’m proud to look. I like looking and being strong and healthy. And I also enjoy feeling like I look attractive. Looking hot isn’t my number one reason for working out, but I’ll admit that it plays a big role. But listen up, because this is important. I work hard. Really, really hard. It’s usual for me to exercise to the point of total fatigue. I have to drink gallons of water to keep up with my sweat output. I go through a pair of shoes every three months. I can wear out a whole pack of athletic socks in 4 weeks. I work through illness, injury, and exhaustion. I push hard every single day to fit this stuff into my regular life as a mom, wife, daughter, friend, writer, and contributor to the household. I work because I love it. I work because it makes me a better mom. I work because I want to be incredibly strong. I work because I’m starting a fitness-based business. I work for mental health and clarity. And I’m able to work because I’ve made it a priority in my life. And I’m proud of my accomplishments. So why does this sometimes make other women angry?

I’ve seen fit-shaming and fat-shaming. But I’ve seen all other kinds of shaming too. I’ve seen girls be mean when someone has a large home or a nice car. I’ve seen girls be mean when another woman gets a promotion. I’ve seen girls be mean when someone goes all out to make cookies for a kindergarten class and it looks like a Pinterest spread.

Sometimes someone will use their hard work to try and shame others for not having the same priorities that they do. Maria Kang, a fit mom, posted a picture on Facebook back in 2013. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s her, looking really shredded, with her three young children. The caption reads, “What’s Your Excuse?” And this is where she’s so, so wrong. I think it’s wonderful she’s in such good shape. I bet she had to work really, really hard to get that way. I admire that. But when she asks what excuse the rest of us have for not looking exactly like her, it’s not inspirational. That’s just shaming. Kang is fat-shaming, and then women are gonna fit-shame her right back. What a ridiculous cycle! An excuse is a reason you give when you haven’t done something you’re supposed to have done. And not all of us want what you want, Maria Kang.

Here’s the bottom line: With the unfortunate exception of those who use their successes to shame, most women aren’t asking what your excuse is. They’re too busy working their asses off and enjoying their windfall. So if you’re out there and you like leaving nasty comments on people’s progress pictures, or hating on someone who went on a dream vacation, realize it’s you who longs for a change. And you can change. You can do anything you want.

You just have to want it. Bad. So bad there’s no space for stopping, no space to even think about giving up. And if you don’t want it, then good. More room for me and the others at the gym, standing in front of the mirrors, taking our millionth gorgeous, sweaty, abs-twisting, delt-flexing selfies. Post ’em up, ladies. I’m proud of you.

Follow Sarah on Facebook at This Fit Mom

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Workout Woman Photo via Shutterstock