Body shaming soon will become as colloquial as fat, says Aishwarya Nair.
In 2008, with the release of Yash raj films’ action thriller ‘Tashan’ , Bollywood was woken up to the whole new furore of size zero, after the lead actress Kareena Kapoor Khan had lost oodles of weight to achieve the size zero phenomena. Although, the film failed to create magic in the box office but the size zero trend had its ripples for a longer time. This trend had been quite influential among the young girls who craved to achieve such unrealistic and unhealthy body structure. However, size zero is now a passé, instead now it is the a4 size challenge which is insanely trending. The challenge involves women uploading pictures of their midriffs along with the sheet proving their waist measurements equal to or thinner than the a4 size paper. Such worrying trends are indirectly setting standards to what is considered as fit, and thus anyone who does not belong to this category, is termed fat and is subjected to body shaming.
Body shaming can be spotted in social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and twitter. From celebrities to ordinary people, everyone is targeted either on weight or color. “Body shaming has been a very big influencer in demoralizing me for the longest time” says Keren Benjamin, a freelance artist. Arpita Khan, sibling of Bollywood actor Salman Khan, was the recent victim of body shaming. Arpita was targeted for her instagram posts, where many slammed her for weight, color, lifestyle etc. One of the comments, on her newborn baby read: “Bete ka color to baap pe gaya hai”. The case of Arpita Khan is not the only one, recently Bollywood actor Fardeen Khan was trolled on social media for his weight gain. However, both the actors handled such bullies in a mature way.
Social media plays a key role in shaping the young minds today, and whatever such platforms offer in visuals or texts, teenagers respond to and absorb it quickly. However, these social media channels have created their own periphery by supporting anything and everything which is appealing and glamorous. The recent controversy where, Facebook, a popular social media engine rejected the ads featuring plus size models by denoting them as ‘undesirable’ adds to it .Thus, leaving no space for the youngsters to come out of the glamourized content. “I have a patient who needs regular validation that she is a good girl. She picks up the guys from Facebook or dating sites called tinder and then spends time meeting the guy and this happens over and over again” says Dr Ashit Sheth , a leading psychiatrist practicing in the field from last 45 years.
Initially, beauty and weight loss products were successful in selling our flaws, but now the mobile applications like Snapchat are doing their best by introducing different beauty filters like fair skin tone, colored lenses, bigger eyelashes and so on. “Most of my childhood days were spent in insecurities about my color, I think as kids we are always told that beauty means being fair” says Bhagyashree Thakur, a freelance photographer. Also, the pre-set beauty mode in smartphones delivers airbrushed selfies with no marks or pimples.
Apart from social media, the presence of body shaming is extended to work as well as educational spaces. Coral Ghosh, a mass media student from Mumbai had conducted a session with teenagers in Jamshedpur and received a massive response against body shaming. “There is a girl who has stopped dressing up as she used to because people often exploded her with bad words and insulted her, she cries at home and never wants to go out for a gathering” says coral. Most of the advertisements and films portray the image of an ideal woman as fair skinned, tall with a flatter belly, thus it leaves a strong impression and sets a standard for women. “Another girl of class 6 from the session spends hours in the washroom crying, because the other male classmates tease her for belly fat. One of them asked her ‘tere pet me baccha hai kya?’ It’s horrendous for a 12 year old to hear this” says Coral.
Thus, fat shaming is becoming a serious issue which is leading to depression among many teens. Now-a-days, girls under the age group of 16-22 are resorting to techniques like drinking warm water or green tea, replacing meals with protein shakes and vigorous physical exercises to lose weight. However these techniques may give temporary results, but can cause a long term internal injury. “When 20 year old girls adopt temporary techniques it affects them in the future, many suffer miscarriages or internal hemorrhages. Couple of my clients had adopted the warm water method after getting influenced by Facebook and Whatsapp posts, and lost weight but it also led to depression. Also, they couldn’t consume ice cream or cold water because their body started rejecting it due to the warm water habit” says Dr Tejendra Kaur Sarna, a dietician. Along with such homely remedies, people also intake drugs like amphetamine which results in loss of appetite. “I remember a girl who wanted to become an actress and wanted to lose weight desperately. She started using Amphetamine, a drug which is used to lose weight. Later she ended up becoming paranoid” says Dr Sheth.
The results of body shaming do not end with this, it also envelopes extreme cases like ‘Bulimia’ and ‘Anorexia’. Anorexia is when a person develops abnormal eating patterns in the fear of weight gain. Cases of Anorexia are largely due to the media influence among youngsters especially females. “I have been treating somebody who is not in the prima stage now; she was studying and has developed this anorexia. Her pulse rate dropped to 240 rate, she lost weight, menses became irregular and missed menses for a period of three months” says Dr Sheth. Bulimia causes binge eating and puking it out to escape the fear of weight gain. “Bulimia is a psychological issue which strains the patient as well as the family members, regular puking damages the enamel and turns the teeth yellow. Thus if a person is suffering from bulimia we can easily identify them” says Tejendra. Bulimia is a lifetime treatment. “When you are bulimic you are throwing away whatever you eat, so the hypothalamus in the brain goes through permanent changes. So, the bulimic has to fight the pressure from the body and the result is a permanent battle” says Dr Sheth.
“Being ashamed of the body is a culture norm and depends on the personality of the person” says Dr Sheth. According to Sheth, today, media is a powerful source to influence the body image. Everybody wants to be thin and fair, thus we have a certain requirement which is influenced by media. “The only problem is that these youngsters have supreme idol image and they constantly feel ashamed about their own body image particularly females. Because they always crave to be accepted. There is always a need to be accepted. Male wants to impress other people. But girls mainly try to be accepted” says Sheth. The media influence of body image starts at a very early age when a chubby child is criticized or ridiculed, thus the consciousness of body enters very early. “Many of these girls who have been abused in the childhood end up with these problems. The body shaming and body image disturbances, majority of them have been abused in the childhood psychologically, physically or sexually” says Sheth.
However, the cases of body shaming are being largely ignored paving way to youngsters resorting to unhealthy techniques. “The cases of Bulimia and Anorexia were extremely nil in the 1970s, but after 90s the scenario is completely changed, television entered into market. These body shaming cases is more common in last 20 years” says Dr Sheth. According to Coral Ghosh, 72% of students were affected by body shaming in the Jamshedpur school, but felt less important or useless to discuss about it. “Body shaming is increasing at an alarming rate amongst teenagers and we must stop it before it becomes as colloquial as fat” says Coral.