What Is Body Shaming? Understanding Its Impact and Consequences

Body shaming is a cruel act that involves saying bad things about someone’s shape or size or making them feel bad about themselves. It can occur in various forms, such as comments about a person’s weight, age, clothing choice, or level of perceived attractiveness. People can experience body shaming from friends, family members, or even strangers, and it is often a behavior perpetuated in the media and society.

Individuals who are overweight or underweight frequently become targets of body shaming, as they are subjected to derogatory remarks about being “too fat” or “too skinny.” This harmful practice can lead to emotional trauma and damaging emotional consequences, especially when experienced at a young age (ANAD). It’s important to recognize and understand body shaming if you want to encourage body positivity and stop this harmful behavior.

Defining Body Shaming


Body shaming is an act where negative comments or judgments are directed toward a person’s body. It can be about one’s own body or someone else’s. This negative commentary can target various aspects, such as size, age, hair, clothing, food, or perceived attractiveness.

“Body shaming” is the act or practice of subjecting someone to criticism or mockery for their supposed bodily faults or imperfections (Merriam-Webster). This act often occurs in person and on social media, where unwanted and unasked-for negative opinions and comments about a person’s body are shared, even when not meant to be directly hurtful.

These negative comments and judgments can significantly impact a person’s mental health and self-esteem. Understanding the definition and consequences of body shaming is essential to effectively addressing and combating the issue. By recognizing the harm caused by this behavior, individuals can work towards fostering body positivity, cultivating self-love, and supporting those affected by body shaming.

Types of Body Shaming

Body shaming can take various forms, which can be classified into two main categories: overt shaming and covert shaming.

Overt Shaming

Overt shaming happens when someone directly makes negative or critical comments about someone’s body, size, or appearance. This can include a variety of situations, such as:

  • Fat shaming: “You shouldn’t wear that outfit until you lose weight.”
  • Skinny shaming: “She needs to eat a cheeseburger.”
  • Attractiveness shaming: “What is a girl like her doing with a guy who looks like that?”
  • Body hair shaming: “Gross, underarm hair on women is such a turn-off.”
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Covert Shaming

Covert shaming is a more subtle form of body shaming. It can be harder to recognize because it may be indirect or disguised as a compliment, concern, or joke. Examples of covert shaming may include:

  • Backhanded compliments: “You’re pretty for a big girl.”
  • False concern: “I’m just worried about your health.”
  • Jokes at someone’s expense: “It’s like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ when you two stand next to each other.”
  • Comparisons: “Your sister has such a great figure; you should ask her for tips.”

Both direct and indirect body shaming can hurt a person’s mental health, hurting their self-esteem and how they feel about their body.

Social Media and Body Shaming

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As social media platforms grow in popularity, they become a breeding ground for body shaming. People often compare themselves to others on these sites, which makes them feel bad about themselves and criticize themselves. Also, anonymous users may feel freer to say bad things about other people’s bodies, which can harm their body image.

The effects of body shaming on social media can be especially bad for younger users, who are more likely to be hurt by online harassment. People can get anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems from cyberbullying and body shaming on social media sites. Furthermore, public body shaming can result in affected individuals withdrawing from social interactions and feeling isolated.

Realizing that body shaming on social media can hurt people, there has been a push toward self-love and body positivity movements. Many individuals and organizations are working to create supportive and empowering online spaces, challenging the unrealistic beauty standards propagated by the media.

Even though social media sites are working on ways to stop body shaming, users can also make the internet healthier. Some suggestions are to mute or unfollow accounts that promote unhealthy body standards or harmful content, to report abusive comments or users, and to spread positivity by talking about self-love and appreciation.

Psychological Effects of Body Shaming

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Body shaming can seriously affect an individual’s mental health and well-being. This section will discuss the effects of body shaming on self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder.

Self-Esteem Issues

Body shaming often leads to decreased self-esteem and self-worth as individuals internalize negative comments about their appearance. This can result in a deep sense of shame, self-consciousness, and dissatisfaction with one’s body. Adolescents who are body shamed have a significantly higher risk of developing low self-esteem, which may affect their overall quality of life and mental health.

Depression and Anxiety

Body shaming is also linked to increased levels of depression and anxiety. When people feel like they are always being judged and criticized for how they look, they may feel sad, hopeless, and worried. Body shaming can trigger or worsen existing symptoms of anxiety and depression, potentially leading to social withdrawal and isolation.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body shaming can contribute to developing body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental health condition characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with one or more perceived flaws in one’s appearance. ANAD notes that body shaming can be a form of bullying and that repeated exposure to body shaming can result in severe emotional trauma, especially at a young age, increasing the likelihood of developing BDD.

People with BDD may spend too much time grooming, checking themselves in the mirror, or even getting cosmetic procedures to fix what they think are flaws. This can make it hard for them to do their daily tasks and have a good quality of life.

Body Shaming and Physical Health

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Body shaming can harm a person’s physical health, leading to various issues such as eating disorders and weight cycling. It is essential to understand these impacts to raise awareness and promote a healthier, more accepting society.

Eating Disorders

Body shaming has been linked to the development of eating disorders in individuals of all ages. Negative comments regarding a person’s body shape or size can trigger feelings of inadequacy, leading to unhealthy eating habits to obtain an ideal body. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are often linked to body shaming.

Individuals with anorexia nervosa may excessively limit their food intake and exercise excessively to achieve unrealistic body weight. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by cycles of binge eating followed by purging through self-induced vomiting, laxative use, or excessive exercise. Binge eating disorder involves periods of excessive food consumption, often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame.

Weight Cycling

Body shaming can also contribute to weight cycling, a pattern of losing and gaining weight repeatedly. This unhealthy pattern can increase the risk of various health complications, such as cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes. A consistent pattern of weight cycling can lead to a never-ending cycle of self-blame and body shame, which makes the mental effects of body shaming even worse.

Maintaining a healthy, sustainable weight management strategy is vital for a person’s physical and mental well-being. Emphasizing the importance of self-acceptance and body positivity can help counteract the harmful effects of body shaming and promote overall health.

Challenging Body Shaming

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Combating body shaming is crucial for fostering a healthier and more supportive society. Body shaming can be stopped in many ways, such as by educating and raising awareness, supporting body positivity, and encouraging self-love. This section deeply explores these sub-sections, providing valuable insights on effectively challenging body shaming.

Education and Awareness

To fight this problem, people need to know what body shaming is and how it affects people. Learn about the different types of bodies and bust common myths and stereotypes about the sizes and shapes of bodies. Share resources and information from trusted sources, such as ANAD, to promote awareness and support. Talking about body shaming and how it affects mental health can lead to change and make people more accepting of others.

Supporting Body Positivity

Promoting a body-positive environment is an essential step in challenging body shaming. Recognize and celebrate the diversity of body types and emphasize the importance of self-acceptance. Encourage people to learn about the media, think critically, and question its unreal beauty standards. Support body positivity by praising positive role models, voices, and messages and actively ignoring body-shaming comments online and in person.

Promoting Self-Love

To stop body shaming, it’s also important to help people love themselves and appreciate their bodies. Encourage individuals to focus on their achievements, talents, and strengths rather than their physical appearance. Instead of focusing only on looks, encourage healthy habits and self-care practices that improve overall health. By creating an environment that encourages self-love, people can become more resistant to body shaming, leading to a more accepting society.





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Maggie Walker
Maggie Walker

Certifications: Fashion Design (BA)
Education: School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Lives In: Chicago
Maggie has invaluable experience working in the fashion industry. Regarding fitting and clothing, only a select few can match up with her experience.
She oversees every aspect and has put her heart and soul into MadisonPlus.

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