Weight is an incredibly tough subject for anyone, but particularly for women. Growing up, women are forced to fit into incredibly unrealistic standards and are often judged if they don’t exactly assimilate into the mold of perfection. For many women, body-shaming has become an all too common occurence. It’s painful, and even worse than the initial sting of weight-based criticsm is the lasting power of body-shaming comments.
Sally Bergesen, founder of the athleticwear brand Oiselle, decided to share her own battle with body-shaming and open the floor for women to discuss their own experiences using #TheySaid on Twitter. Bergesen divulged her father’s criticisms of her eating habits when she was only 12, and from there the replies were both heartbreaking and relatable.
"Keep eating like that and you're going to be a butterball." My Dad when I was 12. Pls RT and share a body shaming comment. #TheySaid
— Sally Bergesen (@oiselle_sally) May 25, 2017
Bergesen’s timeline was flooded with women who had their own memories and stories about being body-shamed by strangers, loved ones and those somewhere in between. Often, the replies were reflections of their long-term struggles with eating disorders and body image, showing the direct correlation of body-shaming with negative self-image.
"Every time I walk by you're eating! You better be careful or you'll end up looking like me (gestures to stomach)!" – a coworker #TheySaid
— Annie Reed (@abreed_13) May 25, 2017
— Heather Mayer Irvine (@RunsOnFuel) May 25, 2017
"You're going to have to lose weight if you want to do fun things at school and be happy." – Mom, summer before I began jr. high. #TheySaid
— Tara (@runningreading1) May 25, 2017
#TheySaid "You should wear a girdle." I was 6 yrs old. Had to ask what a "girdle" was. Then, I understood.💔
— Pam Zich (@RebelSpeducator) May 29, 2017
— Kristiana Almeida (@MsKristiana) May 25, 2017
— KT (@ktgunvalson) May 25, 2017
— Kate Sheppard (@k8shep) May 25, 2017
My family CONSTANTLY asking me "you train so much, how come you're not skinny?" Because sport determines body type, right? >< #theysaid
— AdjustedReality (@Quixotique) May 25, 2017
— Dr. Ashley Dalton Forsyth (@YinzerInPhilly) May 25, 2017
I can remember being in elementary school & girls would talk about weight and say what was considered "fat" & I was a "fat" one #theysaid
— Grace (@gracielooou) May 25, 2017
This online movement spawned a lot of conversation between women, who were grateful to have an open forum to express their own struggles and to tell their stories while cheering each other on.
Check out #TheySaid to realize 1)you're not alone; 2)body-shaming comments last forever; 3)why unhealthy food relationships are developed. 💔
— Sarah Overpeck (@smoverpeck) May 25, 2017
— Jen Hawley Price (@PhilanthropyInk) May 25, 2017
It’s important to understand that body-shaming may not necessarily be intentional or it may not be understood as “shaming,” but in the end, it’s most necessary to keep in mind that the person you’re talking to may have their own battles with their weight and self-image. Would you want someone to criticize you for something you were sensitive about?
Going forward, keep in mind the permanance and weight of your words. They could alter the ease of someone’s journey and make a difference (positive or negative) in someone’s life.