health

A stranger sent me an Instagram message about my weight. They were "concerned for my health".

“Did you recently put on a lot of weight? You weren’t this big in previous full body photographs. What brought on the weight gain? I’m concerned for your health.”

I was just about to go to sleep when I received this message from a complete stranger.

The photo in question? An image of myself I posted on Instagram wearing a pair of dark blue skinny jeans.

In the post, I wrote about how I associate wearing jeans with not fitting in or feeling good enough. About how they’re the one item of clothing I feel least comfortable in, but I’m wearing them because the only way to be comfortable with the uncomfortable is to keep doing it anyway.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Influencer-In-Training is back and she’s wearing @cottonon Curve jeans! Full transparency: When I saw this month’s focus was denim, my heart sank a little bit because jeans are the one item of clothing I feel least comfortable in. If you’ve ever found yourself profusely sweating in a change room with denim stuck around your thighs, you know how tricky jeans can be. I’ve also never understood the people who chill in jeans like I chill in… pyjamas ???? BUT these jeans were pretty comfy practically and I love the colour. I may not have felt super confident in them (it’s not you, jeans, it’s me) but I guess the only way to be comfortable with the uncomfortable is to keep doing it anyway! ❤️❤️ #cottononcrew

A post shared by Amy Clark (@theamyclark) on

fat shaming
Such a lovely bit of bedtime reading. Image: Supplied/Amy Clark.
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Screenshot. Delete. Block.

Dickhead, I muttered before rolling over to sleep. Those words stuck with me that night long after they'd disappeared from the internet. While my partner was asleep, I lay in the dark scrolling through my feed, seeing if I really did look skinnier in the few other full length body shots on my profile.

It's not the first time I've received a comment or unsolicited advice about my body, and likely won't be the last. But what infuriated me more than someone pointing out what I already know about myself (everyone is aware of their body size, right?) was the way they tried to pretend they were worried about my health.

I saw it for what it was: fat shaming wrapped up in faux concern. It's a thing people do to give themselves permission to make a comment about a person's weight. Kind of like when you preface something offensive with "I don't mean to offend you, but...".

Whether this faceless person thought they were being helpful or not - likely the latter - comments like this are not helpful.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I've thought extensively about my weight, my body shape and food every single day since I was 12 years old. And the stigma around 'fat people' I feel most deeply is:

I've 'done this to myself'. I must've gotten this way because all I do is sit on the couch and eat chips. I can't help myself. If I could just stop eating, everything would be fine. If only I could muster some self control.

But we know fat doesn't automatically mean unhealthy and thin, healthy. There's so much you can't know about a person solely based on the way they look in a pair of jeans. Their health, personality and whether they're a good person, yes, but also their life-long struggle.

You can listen to body image warrior Taryn Brumfitt speak about how taking control of your own body image and self worth in the No Filter interview below. Post continues after audio.

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Some, like me, have tried every diet and have thought about every treatment possible, including irreversible surgery. Some might have recently been through a really hard time and turned to food for comfort.

Others have hereditary medical conditions and illnesses we can't see, or are dealing with weight gain as a side effect of the medication they take for their mental health. Many women in particular may have recovered from or are still living with an eating disorder. What about the ones, like me, who were told their weight was dangerously low, and now, dangerously high?

There are those of us who see expensive specialists and take expensive medications because we want not to be skinny, but to be healthy. And then, there are those who have the bodies they have because... that's the body they were given and they're fine with it. Or they were, until they were told not to be.

For anyone worried, I'm on it. I'm all over how my body has changed over however many weeks, months and years. Have a good, investigative scroll through my social media and you'll see it plain as day. I've been a size 6 at my lowest and a size 22 at my largest.

I'm deeply acquainted with the shape of my thighs and the way my arms wobble. I'm well aware of how I look in a pair of jeans. I'm also well aware of how damaging this kind of unnecessary commentary (i.e. fat shaming/skinny shaming) can be for anyone, but especially a person who has already thought those very things about themselves a million times over.

But this isn't a story about body shaming. Well, it is, but can we also remember the people you see on your Instagram feed are... people?

In 2019, we live in a culture whereby we mentally separate the 'thing' from the 'person', and even a person's body or appearance from their humanity. This is why some people feel like talking about someone's weight is sort of OK. But let's draw a line in the sand today. It is not OK.

So, please. Don't fat shame me under the guise of being concerned about my health.

Actually, if you don't mind, you could also just not fat shame at all, yeah?

If this article has raised issues for you, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 334 673. If you are in crisis, please call 000.

Have you ever been fat shamed by someone pretending to be worried about your health? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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