Many of us have had a relative tell us why we need to lose weight, been called mota/moti by our friends, or had our tailor advise us on what to wear to hide the curves. As the Twitter shaming of a Madhya Pradesh cop last week reveals that it is the easiest thing in the world to pass judgement on someone's weight. From bullying in school to popular TV shows and seemingly innocent nicknames, body-shaming can creep into everyday conversation, in the form of jokes, innocuous remarks and unsolicited advice.
Studies have shown that the common argument that fat-shaming motivates people to work harder towards weight loss or change their habits is false. In fact, research indicates that "the internalisation of weight bias" can actually lead to poor health. People who are shamed for their weight are at an increased risk for low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, but also diseases like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
In order to change the way we see fat discrimination, it is first important to acknowledge how it creeps in subtle ways into our vocabulary and call out instances of weight-related bias. Sixteen people told us how they were weight-shamed by friends, relations, colleagues, random strangers.
1. "Usually, when I meet a person after a long time -- mostly relatives -- they will comment on my weight. 'Oh, you have put on more weight. Oh, you have lost weight. What have you been doing to lose weight?'"
Because contrary to what the world thinks, a person's identity is defined by much more than their weight.
2. "It is time for you to get married, you must lose weight."
Because being skinny and losing weight is not the ticket to finding a good husband and marriage.
3. "You are so fat, no one will marry you. My father would say that only rugby players and wrestlers would marry me, because otherwise our sizes won't match."
4. "You are fat but you still look really nice. You really know how to carry yourself.
Because weight and beauty are not mutually exclusive. This 'compliment' hides an unspoken stigma that being overweight amount to being ugly and that the person in question looks nice in spite of it.
My father would say that only rugby players and wrestlers would marry me because otherwise our sizes won't match."
5. "Kya baat hai. Koi good news hai kya?"
Because bodies work in complex ways and every weight gain does not have to be justified.
6. "Shopkeepers often tell me which dress to buy to hide your curves and make you look thin."
Because implicit in the the suggestion that certain clothes can make you look thinner is that curves and bulges are ugly, and that you need to hide parts of your body in order to make it attractive and flattering.
7. "Wow, you have lost a lot of weight. You look good."
Because even though weight loss is commonly considered to be an achievement and a source of happiness, there are many other things which define a person. Instead, body positivity movement argues that bodies of all shapes and sizes are valuable and beautiful.
Don't eat so much.
8. "People tell you to avoid eating everything from rice to potatoes and fried food."
Because research has shown that weight is determined by a complex set of biological, genetic, environmental and other factors, and cannot be pinned down down to something as simple as how much or what you eat. Just as being thin is not a guarantee for being healthy, fat does not always equal poor health.
9. Don't eat so much.
"Eating with my father at the same table used to be an issue because he would forever comment on the amount I consumed: 'Oh that is too much butter', 'don't take a second helping of rice' and 'you are 14 and fat, you should have sugar free with your glass of milk'.
Because you can't ascertain a person's health based on how they look.
10. "My dad has always "affectionately" called me fat-ass."
Because no one deserves to be butt of jokes just because of their weight. Even if nicknames such as mota, moti, haathi, fatso, fatty and fat-ass are used in jest, they can undermine a person's self-confidence.
11. "She has such big boobs. She should wear salwar-kameez-dupatta, you know. It'll suit her... figure better."
"From wearing short-sleeved shirts, to trying to run with the boys, I've always been lectured about how to behave 'like a lady' — which is just another term for acting as if my boobs did not exist. I am a girl, I was growing and yes — I jiggled."
12. "If a relative spots any overweight person nearby, they will turn around to say how I look exactly like her."
"You have such a nice face, you should lose weight, then you will look beautiful."
13. "A yoga teacher told me, 'Yes, we can start yoga with you, but we first need to work on your weight, then you will be able to perform advanced asanas. I obviously never went to her as her assumptions about my body type were too many. Now people ask me, if you can do such difficult yoga poses, how are you still fat? Does yoga help you lose weight? How can you do these poses with a big body like yours?"
-- Yoga teacher Dolly Singh.
14. "You have such a nice face, you should lose weight, then you will look beautiful."
Because body positivity is about accepting all shapes and sizes.
15. "When getting into a cramped lift, the heavier person is always made fun of by the group of friends with respect to the capacity of the lift."
16. "In any field, not only the ones that actually are connected to your outer appearance but even the corporate world, people are always judged by their size instead of their talent. Like a heavy person is considered unfit, stupid, lazy, not smart enough and not talented enough."
Because no one deserves to be stereotyped for their weight.