Those Little Stabs of Weight-Related Shame

August 5, 2013 | By | Comments (4)

Because being overweight is associated in our culture with failure—moral failure, failure of will, failure to comply with social norms—it’s a matter of some shame for many. Me, too.

I don’t want to exaggerate, though. For me, shame has been only a minor note, in part (probably) because I haven’t been that overweight, in part because I get lots of positive reinforcement in work and family life.  For me, it’s been a matter of periodic blasts of irritation and frustration rather than a persistent, terrible burn. It would pop up, but I had ways of stamping it down, moving on.

The frequency of shame related to the number of mirrors I encountered during the day.

skyscrapers reflected on a mirror tower

Photo: Getty/Michel Setboun

First and irreducibly, there was the morning bathroom mirror confrontation. After that, clothes on, the number of confrontations depended on the number of mirrors, and usually that wasn’t many. There’s a wall of mirrors in the office bathroom. But in the normal course of a workday that was about it, because our office building simply doesn’t have many mirrors.

It’s been shockingly different on a business trip to New York. My beloved Manhattan is a fantastic hall of mirrors and mirrored surfaces. You can see yourself 50 times just walking from point A to point B in midtown. (For example, in the mirrored surfaces of the Abercrombie & Fitch store, at whose entrance a shirtless, beautiful boy often stands, beckoning people 30 years younger and 50 pounds lighter than I am to come in and shop; everyone else: stay out!) You see yourself reflected back dozens of times per hour, along with the images of legions of thinner people who are racing along the sidewalks like a herd of gazelles, charging around the stunned tourists. I have never been able to avert my gaze from these mirrors; I have always been compelled to look. What I saw on this trip was a guy—the editor of a healthy-cooking magazine!—who needed to lose 20 pounds, and I felt a little bit of shame each time.

Share your thoughts or similar experiences. Comment here, email, and tweet @ScottMowb or @Cooking_Light using #SocialDiet.


  1. Those Little Stabs of Weight-Related Shame | Womens Health Trend Watch

    […] Simmer and Boil […]

    August 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm
  2. Tracy

    Amen to that velvetcyberpunk!

    August 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm
  3. Jeannie Landis

    Shame feels horrible! I question…
    Why do you think you need to lose weight?
    What is “healthy?”
    What will losing 20# change?
    What reflection do you want to see in all of those mirrored surfaces?
    How do you know those reflective surfaces aren’t distorting images?
    Maybe being 20# heavier than you want to be reflects the fact that healthy cooking DOES taste good! 😉

    August 6, 2013 at 6:30 am
  4. velvetcyberpunk

    Well, I have had my fair share of people shaming me for my weight. It didn’t matter if I was 15 pounds over weight or 150, the simple fact is fatphobia, and sizeism are the last remaining acceptable forms of bigotry.

    You are also lucky because you are a man, and let’s face facts, men aren’t held to the same ridiculous standard women are. Men can be big and still be considered valuable. Sure they may take ribbing and there will always be those hateful few who hate anyone who is big but really, women are considered worthless unless they are the perfect size and weight. The majority of weight loss advertising is aimed at women, the media taunts famous women if they are big and then parades them around like a prize at a fair when they lose weight, only to taunt them even more if they fall off of the fitness wagon.

    The fact of the matter is that being overweight is not always unhealthy, and being thin is not proof of fitness. This idea is just a smoke screen so that bigots can hate on people without looking like the shallow hatemongers they are. How do I know this? Because I know that you can be healthy after losing only 10-15% of your weight and will do much better but people still mistreat you even if you have lost the weight. Look at the woman who lost weight and was kicked out of the water park because she was too big to wear a bikini. She looked fine, but she wasn’t super model thin. The people in the comments section of the article said she needed to lose weight because it wasn’t healthy even though it said she’d lost weight in the article. What is too fat? What is the limit where we begin to become unhealthy? Everyone is different and you cannot tell how healthy someone is just by looking, no matter what the haters say. Also, this idea that it’s within our control, that’s ridiculous. There are many diseases that are treated with steroids, and many people gain weight with steroid use, then there are the people who have thyroid problems, much more common than once believed, etc. You can’t possibly know how or why someone is overweight and yet people rush to judgment.

    People need to concentrate on their own health and change what they need to to be as healthy as they can, but really it’s their body and it’s their life.We would all do better if we stopped letting the bigots push us around, and started loving ourselves for who we are. Studies have shown that the better we feel about ourselves the more likely we will be to treat ourselves better and make an effort to be healthier. Hating someone for who they are should never be acceptable whether it’s because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, or their weight. I think we should start shaming people for being bigots and not for being overweight.

    August 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s