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Body Shaming: The Negative Effects and Dangers

Much recently, there has been a trend of body shaming on social media. The victims mostly being plus size and skinny females, and this has led a lot of people in this category to become very self-conscious, and also, to further question the twenty first century beauty standards.

Here is a question you might want to ask though, is this new problem of self-consciousness peculiar to the female folks alone? We will talk about that as we proceed. With social media and the beauty industry changing how we see our bodies, people tend to make conscious attempts to replicate in real life, the virtual reality beauty standards of long blonde hair, an hour glass figure, tanned skin, long legs etc…. as seen in games, printed materials and on television.

This however, is very good news for the beauty industry because the new trend has got people from all social classes racing to beauty stores and cosmetic surgeons just to get the perfect body. Thus, it is safe to say that body shaming is a tool for marketing. Every time you see an advert of a beauty product starring a “perfectly” shaped model you subconsciously question your present appearance and build up certain insecurities.

A body lotion company wants you to think your skin tone isn’t light enough, so they use a very light skinned model to prove their point and have you wanting to go two tones lighter.

A swim suit company wants you to buy their products, so they use a model with the ideal bikini body. This would in turn, mean a high patronage of weight loss products, skin care products, waist sliming products, and finally the bikini. See the chain?

Most young people have celebrity idols who they wish to become like and these celebrities are a definition of perfection for their fans. People like Kim Kardashian West and Nikky Minaj who have become house hold names, have redefined beauty by altering their original body shapes through plastic surgeries, bringing to life the fictional Barbie character from Disney. Who wouldn’t want to look like a million bucks?

Breast augmentation surgeries typically breast implants, far outpaced other surgeries with nearly 300,000 operations nationwide. Breast augmentations and the 223,018 nose reshaping surgeries both netted doctors more than a billion dollars in 2016.

Liposuction also remains popular, with 235,237 surgeries across the U.S. costing about $750 million (Sean Rossman, Americans are spending more than ever on plastic surgery, published in USA TODAY NEWS, 12th of April 2017). That’s a whole lot of money spent in a year in a quest for the appropriate body figure.

Trolling people on their physical appearance affects them in many ways than one. People become uncomfortable in their own skin because all they see when they look in the mirror is an imperfect being.

Victims of body shaming suffer from quite a number of mental health disorders such as; anxiety, binge eating, clinical depression and anorexia. Let’s look at these one after the other.

1. Anxiety

overcome anxietyThe Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. The mental stress of struggling to achieve the socially acceptable physique poses a huge burden on the brain.”

Am I making any progress, have I lost any weight yet, how can I make my progress faster?” These sorts of questions roam the minds of anxious victims of body shame. These constant thoughts degenerate into clinical depression.

2. Clinical depression

This occurs when depressive symptoms rise to the point where the patient must be treated by a doctor. Victims of body shame degrade from being simply anxious to developing a sense of self loath.

Their daily life is affected by this new sense of self hate so much so that they become uninterested in the things they would normally enjoy doing and become withdrawn from social interactions. At this point, suicide gradually becomes an option. Quite a number of body shame victims will lose their lives to suicide if not paid required attention.

3. Binge eating

Binge eatingHollywood has successfully painted a comical picture of plus size people engaging in binge eating. While we watch these motion pictures and laugh our guts out, the message of plus sized people being food abusers is subtly registered at the back of our minds, and when we see these people, we view them with that stereotype in our heads.

Binge eating is an eating disorder characterized by the consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time. While it’s true that overweight people engage in binge eating, overly skinny people looking to gain weight do the same.

People suffering from this are known to; eat when not hungry, keep eating even when obviously over fed, have no control over this eating habit, and even have secretive behaviours around food.

4. Anorexia

I recently heard someone say “Oh! She’s naturally anorexic, it’s her body type”. There’s no such thing as an anorexic body type. Anorexia, like binge eating, is an eating disorder. People in this category have developed a fear of weight gain and have taken to measures like deliberate starvation and fasting to prevent their fears from becoming a reality.

“Anorexic nervosa is a serious disorder that has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses” says Sydney Pearson in her article titled the truth about body shaming. While these people try to prevent weight gain, they grow really skinny to a point where their skeletal features become visible.

Let’s be candid, nobody has the right to talk about another person’s appearance is a demeaning manner. We cause damages to people when we make silly comments about their looks both on social media and in real life.

Back to the question “is body shaming peculiar to the female folks alone?” The answer is no. Ever heard of the six packs craze? Yes, that’s actually a thing these days. They want a physically built man, and this has led to a rush in gym patronage.

Body shaming is an act of bullying and it’s best dealt with by standing up for yourself.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

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