June 17, 2024

One’s advice for a person to lose weight, even if this is coming from a relative or a friend, may cause more harm than good.

An expert on mental health said no matter how well-meaning the intention is, people should be cautious in teasing a friend or a relative about their weight or even advising them to lose weight as this may lead to more serious consequences.

Dr. Anniline Teng, medical officer III of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center-Psychiatry Department, said the often-perceived harmless comment about a person’s weight and body shape is a form of body shaming that has a serious impact on the one receiving them.

Even when done with the intention to help, Teng said unsolicited negative comments about a person’s weightor body shape can bring about feelings of shame and a sense of inferiority to the target person.

While Filipinos often consider remarking on someone else’s physical appearance as funny and harmless, she said this is not the case, especially if these are coming from a relative or a friend.

“Body shaming does not only come from strangers and bullies. There are studies that showed peers and family members are the worst perpetrators of appearance teasing or criticism and in Filipino culture, reunions or family gatherings serve as opportunities for body shaming,” Teng said.

If not stopped, body shaming leads to serious consequences – mental health disorders.

Teng said studies have established a link between body shaming and eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression among other mental health concerns.

At the BGHMC, body shaming is one of the factors that contribute to the concerns of clients, especially teenagers who have developed depression.

To avoid causing harm, Teng said it is best for people to leave it to the experts to advise individuals who have concerns about their weight or their appearance.

“Most of the time, telling someone you are concerned about their weight is harmful. They already know it and the best is to leave the matter to their doctors,” she said.

Aside from criticizing someone’s weight, other forms of body shaming are remarking negatively on a person’s height, their thick body hair or lack thereof, hair color, body piercings and diseases that leave a physical mark.

To address the negative consequences of body shaming, Teng cited the need to strengthen the social movement that advocates for the celebration of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone or physical abilities.

Teng said prioritizing the body’s function and what it can do is better than focusing on appearance. She added the concept of beauty is constructed by society and it should not determine someone’s self-worth or value. – Jane B. Cadalig